Keira Walsh ‘feeling fresh’ before latest round of Women’s Nations League games

By Sports Desk November 30, 2023

Keira Walsh says she is “feeling fresh” as she targets a fourth consecutive summer of international football.

Barcelona midfielder Walsh played for Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, and then for England when they won Euro 2022 before finishing as runners-up at the summer’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The latter tournament saw the 26-year-old miss a game due to a knee injury, and a subsequent calf problem saw her sit out the Lionesses’ two September matches in the Women’s Nations League – a competition through which England can secure qualification for GB for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Walsh said: “After so many tournaments, and somebody actually sent me a thing the other day that I’d played the second-most games in Europe, I think naturally that’s going to take a toll on your body. I think obviously that’s potentially a factor of why I got injured at the start of the season.

“But I did my rehab, the club and England have looked after me, we’ve had a camp since then and a lot of games in between.

“I’m feeling good, I’m feeling fresh, and I think that was my little break for me to now go again and push on this season.”

Walsh says another tournament next summer is something she is “definitely” up for, adding: “Honestly, the thought of pre-season is worse!

“I’d rather go to a tournament. It’s special. People talk about the winning, but just the feeling of being part of a team for so long, and you spend every day with each other – I think then when you go home and you’re not with 50 people is also a bit weird. Even off the pitch it’s a special feeling to be part of a group at a tournament.”

England need to finish first in Group A1 to have a chance of obtaining the Olympic qualification and head into their final two pool matches in danger of falling short of top spot.

Sarina Wiegman’s side are currently third, three points behind the Netherlands, 2-1 victors against them in September, and one behind Belgium, who last month – with Walsh back in the side – they beat 1-0, then were defeated by 3-2.

It leaves England needing to win to remain in contention when they host the Netherlands at Wembley on Friday, before they take on Scotland at Hampden Park four days later.

Walsh said: “I think obviously we want to put the things right that weren’t so good in the Belgium game, and it’s going to be a difficult game for us. We know it’s a must-win.

“But I’m hoping we can show the resilient side to us and the character, and put in a good performance.

“I think (in the second match against Belgium) it was maybe just a slight lack of concentration at times. But let’s not catastrophise it, it wasn’t the worst game in the world for us.”

Regarding next week’s contest, Walsh said the fact England are in a group with Scotland players holding hopes of making the GB squad is “a little bit strange”, but said: “If I’m putting myself in their shoes, it’s a big game against England. They’re going to want to win – and so do we.”

As well as regular captain Leah Williamson still being out injured, England also have Millie Bright, who has been skipper in her absence, sidelined at the moment.

Walsh, holder of 67 England caps, believes there are “a lot of natural leaders in the team”.

On her personal role, she added: “That’s something that Sarina has also asked of me, to take on a little bit more responsibility in that aspect, especially in the midfield, to try to vocalise and communicate a little bit more, and hopefully that is something that I can work on and improve on.”

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