It is an interesting time for the England women’s team, which arrives at the Women’s World Cup among the tournament favorites but also in perhaps its most uncertain state after two years of largely smooth sailing.
The Lionesses are the champions of Europe, a triumph that has precipitated a sea change for women’s soccer in England in terms of popularity and expectations.
“With this England team,” Coach Sarina Wiegman said, “everyone expects us to win.”
But in this World Cup, England is arguably a weakened champion. In the months since claiming its European title, what began as the loss of one key starter to injury, striker Beth Mead, has become three. Midfielder Fran Kirby will miss the World Cup, too, after having surgery on a knee. Leah Williamson, who captained England as it conquered, has, like Mead, torn a knee ligament.
Recent results have proved similarly worrisome. A goalless draw in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Canada, England’s last game before the World Cup, was the team’s third straight scoreless performance.
Yet Wiegman remains pragmatic and steadfast. Again and again in her recent interview, she returned to the same questions that have become touchstones for her and her team: “What do we want to do? How do we want to play? What are the roles and the tasks in the team?”