England boss Sarina Wiegman remains “concerned” about injured Keira Walsh after the midfielder was stretchered off in the Lionesses’ 1-0 World Cup Group D victory over Denmark in Sydney.

Walsh, a 2023 Champions League winner with Barcelona, started every game of England’s triumphant Euro 2022 campaign and could clearly be seen telling the team’s medical staff “I’ve done my knee” after sliding to collect the ball late in the first half.

The worrying scene dampened the elated atmosphere that followed Lauren James’ sixth-minute opener, a maiden World Cup goal for the 21-year-old Chelsea forward.

Wiegman said: “Of course I’m concerned because she couldn’t walk off the pitch, but we don’t know yet, so we can’t take any assumptions. Let’s just wait until we really have a diagnosis and then we can tell you.

“You saw what we did, (Georgia) Stanway dropped back and Laura (Coombs) came in. Yes, of course we had to find our feet a little bit.

“You saw different stages. We really dominated the first half. Then Keira went out and we had to adapt to the situation.

“In the second half, Denmark also had such a direct style of play. We also showed we can fight. The team showed real resilience. We kept it to 1-0 so it was really good and I’m really proud of the team.”

Walsh later appeared on crutches, with ex-England striker-turned-pundit Ellen White telling the BBC: “(At the 2022 Euros) Everything came through Keira. There wasn’t a plan B.

“I dreaded to think of the idea of us ever losing her because she was one of our best players. Beth Mead was scoring all the goals but all of our play came through Keira. She was the key cog, everything moved through her.

“I just don’t know who England are going to have now in that six (defensive midfield position), or even potential double six, role.”

Asked about White’s comments, Wiegman simply restated: “You saw the plan B. Georgia Stanway drops back and Laura Coombs comes in.”

An update on Walsh is not expected until Saturday at the earliest.

Wiegman fielded the same starting XI for every match of the Euros, but made two changes for the world number-four Lionesses’ second World Cup encounter against 13th-ranked Denmark.

James replaced Lauren Hemp on the left wing while Rachel Daly returned to the familiar left-back role she occupied for every match of the European Championship, and Alex Greenwood shifted to centre-back.

Wiegman’s decisions were almost instantly justified when Daly slipped the ball to James, who curled past Denmark goalkeeper Lene Christensen for what ultimately proved enough to settle the result after Amalie Vangsgaard’s header for a last-gasp equaliser clipped the post.

Wiegman likes to stress football is a full-squad endeavour, but did say of James, younger sister of fellow England international Reece James: “She has done really well but it is a team effort too and we were very careful with her.

“She is a very young, talented player. And yes, we were happy with the performance and she was ready today, so that was really good.

“Of course the approach of this game, we know that Denmark was dropping a little deeper, that they have a very tight, defensive block and we really thought we needed to play it in the pockets.

“That’s where she came a lot together also with Stanway and (Ella) Toone, and that worked really well. They really struggled with that, and yes, she made indeed a very nice goal.”

Denmark boss Lars Sondergaard extended his condolences to Walsh, and felt that while her absence perhaps led to a second-half surge from his side as England adjusted, the threat from players like James highlights how difficult it is to come up against the Lionesses.

He said: “After Keira Walsh, that’s always if you have to close one down, there’s another player. I think England has such a good team, they have always players that if you give too much notice on one player, other players will come up.”

MARY EARPS: England’s number one was reliable once again and dealt with everything that came her way including an important save from Katrine Veje’s dangerous effort in the second half. 8 (out of 10).

LUCY BRONZE: The Barcelona defender marshalled the right flank and battled high up the pitch to provide England’s attackers with dangerous crosses and passing options throughout. 8

MILLIE BRIGHT: It was a clean sheet and a composed performance from Bright, who often drove with the ball into midfield and showed her passing ability to start England’s attacks. 7

ALEX GREENWOOD: The centre-back impressed whenever she was called upon and often fizzed passes into the midfield with her preferred left boot. 6

RACHEL DALY: Pressed into the left-back position, Daly combined well with Lauren James down the left early in the game before being pegged back. Lost Danish substitute Amalie Vangsgaard for her late header against the post. 6

GEORGIA STANWAY: Stanway conducted the tempo well as England dominated the early stages, however she began to lose the midfield battle late on which saw Denmark grow in confidence. 6

KEIRA WALSH: Looked confident on the pitch as England dominated possession, before she was replaced in the first half with a serious-looking knee injury. 6

ELLA TOONE: The midfielder’s energy was a positive for England but she struggled to combine with Alessia Russo and Chloe Kelly in crucial areas before she was replaced late on. 6

LAUREN JAMES : The Chelsea youngster’s sumptuous strike from outside the box in sixth minute gave England the victory. James went from strength to strength with a series of exciting runs which would have impressed Sarina Wiegman. 8

CHLOE KELLY: Kelly contributed defensively to cover for the attacking Bronze but also came alive with the ball at her feet to create chances for England. The Manchester City winger provided a series of testing corners but could have been more clinical in the second half when she failed to make the final pass. 7

ALESSIA RUSSO: It was a quiet performance from Arsenal’s new striker, who struggled for service up front. However, she pressed hard off the ball to ensure England took all three points. 5

SUBSTITUTES

LAURA COOMBS (for Walsh, 38): Coombs had big shoes to fill when she replaced Walsh in the first half and rarely put a foot wrong. 6

BETHANY ENGLAND (for Russo, 76): England came on when the momentum had shifted in favour of Denmark but had one opportunity with a header which she failed to put on target. 6 

LAUREN HEMP (for Toone, 76) It was a strong cameo from Hemp, who showed her worth by running at the defence and putting in testing crosses. 7

Lauren James’ maiden World Cup goal was enough for England to maintain their 100 per cent record in Group D with a 1-0 victory over Denmark at the Sydney Football Stadium.

The Chelsea forward struck the sixth-minute opener, but England suffered a major blow after 38 minutes when midfielder Keira Walsh was stretchered off with an apparent knee injury and later appeared on the touchline using crutches.

James’ goal was England’s first from open play since April’s Finalissima at Wembley, while Denmark came within inches of a last-gasp leveller when Amalie Vangsgaard’s header clipped the post.

England now have to wait for the result of China and Haiti in the late kick-off to learn if they have advanced to the knockouts with a match to spare.

Sarina Wiegman stuck with the same starting line-up for every game of the Lionesses’ Euro 2022-winning campaign, but she shook things up against Denmark with two changes from England’s 1-0 tournament opener against Haiti.

James, who came on as a substitute in that match for her World Cup debut, replaced Lauren Hemp on the left wing while Rachel Daly returned to a more familiar left-back where she started every match of the European Championships.

That pushed Alex Greenwood to centre back, leaving Jess Carter looking on from the bench after starting against Haiti.

Wiegman’s decisions were almost instantly justified when Daly slipped the ball to James, who curled past Denmark goalkeeper Lene Christensen.

Ella Toone nearly set up James for a second soon after, but this time the 21-year-old was only able to drill a low attempt into Christiansen’s arms.

With England largely dictating play, Denmark’s first real chance of an equaliser came when Rikke Madsen collected the ball and pivoted on the right edge of the penalty area but sent her effort across the face of goal.

Lars Sondergaard’s side were picking up the pace with Janni Thomsen firing over and ex-Chelsea forward and Denmark skipper Pernille Harder denied by Mary Earps, while at the other end Lucy Bronze nodded Chloe Kelly’s corner over.

Then came what could be a devastating blow to Wiegman’s side when Walsh slid to collect the ball and was in immediate pain when she stopped.

Walsh waved off help from her team-mates as she could clearly be seen telling the team’s medical staff: “I’ve done my knee.”

The Champions League winner, named player-of-the-match in the Euro 2022 final, was stretchered off and replaced by Manchester City’s Laura Coombs.

Harder rolled an effort wide to end the first half, while Kathrine Kuhl could not find the finishing touch for Denmark after the restart.

Alessia Russo came close to extending England’s advantage when she collected the ball in midfield and drove down the pitch before firing wide of the near post from 12 yards.

Earps, who made a vital save to deny Haiti a late leveller, was tested again when she parried Katrine Veje’s cross – which seemed destined to clip the crossbar – out of harm’s way.

Both Toone and Russo’s shifts came to an end after 77 minutes as Hemp came on for the former and Russo was replaced by Beth England, who was part of the Lionesses European Championship-winning squad but did not play a single minute.

The Spurs striker directed a header wide and Bronze missed from a late attempt from distance.

The Lionesses narrowly avoided late drama when a pair of Denmark substitutes nearly combined for an equaliser, but to their relief Vangsgaard’s header from Nicoline Sorensen’s cross came back off the right post, and a leaping save from Earps in four minutes of stoppage time sealed another too-close-for-comfort result.

England defender Alex Greenwood enjoys channelling her younger self at the colouring-in station, while Lauren Hemp, Niamh Charles and Keira Walsh prefer playing table tennis in the swanky Australian hotel which will be the Lionesses’ base for the remainder of the World Cup.

The European champions’ private wing of the Crowne Plaza in the coastal New South Wales town of Terrigal is the product of more than 18 months of Football Association planning, including extensive consultation with players to create an area they hope will provide a “home from home” and lead to better performances on the pitch.

The Lionesses were an integral part of the design, from picking the inspirational quotes on the walls to requesting the wide range of activities on offer, including arcade games, a library, darts, and a popular coffee station serving up brews emblazoned with custom images in the foam. By midday on Wednesday, baristas estimated they had served up about 40 cups.

Greenwood, who alongside Lucy Bronze is playing in a third consecutive World Cup, said: “We have got an amazing base camp.

“A lot of people are doing colouring in and (doing) jigsaws. We’ve got an unbelievable set-up with a games room. The younger ones play a bit more games than the older ones. It’s a relaxed camp. The staff make it really relaxed and the experienced players help the younger ones. There’s no concern there.

“I’m actually loving colouring in at the moment. I’ve found my inner-child Alex again! Coffees and walks have been my go-to at the minute. I’m colouring in all kinds, whatever I can get my hands on. I’m running out of spaces now.”

In a tribute to team history, rooms are named after former Lionesses, including Mary Phillip, Rachel Yankey, Ellen White and ‘The Scott’ relaxation room, which former midfielder Jill joked she hoped is named after her and not defender-turned-BBC pundit Alex.

The Lionesses had a similar base at the Lensbury Resort in Teddington during Euro 2022. The FA picked up on the positive impact that retreat had on England’s triumphant campaign and were keen to recreate a similar environment for a tournament that will see them hop between three cities in the world’s sixth largest country during their quest for a maiden global title.

Kay Cossington, women’s technical director at the FA, said: “We learned so much from the Lensbury…it was the home-from-home feel, the different activities, the relaxation area, the fact that everything was in such close proximity.

“Coming to a tournament this size and scale in a country this big, we wanted to try and make the tournament as small as we could in terms of the logistics and the travel to help the loading.

“You can imagine how much kit and equipment gets shifted from venue to venue. It was really nice for us to land here and know that, although we travel to games, this is now where we come back to. This is our base. This is our home in Australia.

“We choose from a performance lens, but equally the players have got to feel that it’s right for them as well. Thankfully we are actually joined with what the need is (for them) because it’s a performance reason.”

The first time the FA spoke with FIFA about their plans was in December 2021. Six months later, Cossington and Lionesses general manager Anja van Ginhoven visited about 23 hotels and 18 training grounds in 11 days.

When the Lionesses were drawn in Group D, which will see them play matches in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide during the group stage, they were ready to submit the Crowne Plaza and nearby palm tree-lined Central Coast Stadium to FIFA as their first choice, a decision ultimately made by England boss Sarina Wiegman after extensive meetings with her team.

Everything from the player pictures splashed on the wall to the three lions etched in glass above the private entrance, not to mention the decked-out studio where Jill Scott hosts Lionesses: Down Under, is a far cry from 2005, when England hosted the European Championships for the first time.

Cossington added: “We never had anything like this. We did the best we could with the resources we had at the time. You were printing things off yourself and putting them on doors, the banners, the pop-ups, you’d carry them around with you.

“It is night and day. I’ve seen it grow and evolve incredibly, but this I truly feel has gone another step another level another mile and I think that’s again testimony to how the game has grown.”

Captain Heather Knight urged England to bounce back to draw the “best ever series” after Australia retained the Women’s Ashes with victory by three runs in the second ODI at the Ageas Bowl.

Nat Sciver-Brunt hit an unbeaten 111 in Hampshire but it was not enough to guide England to victory in pursuit of 283 with the hosts finishing on 279 for seven after a thrilling sixth encounter of the multi-format series.

After trailing 6-0 following defeats in the one-off Test and opening T20, England had stormed back to win three matches in a row and keep alive their faint chances of winning back the Ashes for the first time since 2014.

Only victory in the final two ODIs would be enough for Knight’s team, but the tourists proved too strong with Ellyse Perry’s 91 and a game-changing knock of 37 not out from Georgia Wareham, with 26 runs coming off the final over bowled by Lauren Bell, helping Australia make 282 for seven.

Sciver-Brunt was able to produce more heroics against Australia, after she hit 148 not out in last year’s World Cup final, but with 15 runs needed from the last six deliveries, Jess Jonassen held her nerve and England will aim to level the series at 8-8 in Tuesday’s final ODI in Taunton.

“God it was an unbelievable game again wasn’t it? It has got to be the best series there has ever been in the history of the women’s game,” Knight reflected.

“Two sides going toe-to-toe, fighting it out and every game has been pretty close. Yeah, obviously disappointment but real pride as well over the fact we got so close.

“The way Nat played was unbelievable. To nearly marshal the tail in that chase was brilliant, but probably left a little bit too much to do.

“Overall, we’ve put in another thriller of a performance, but the Ashes are gone which is disappointing.”

Before Sciver-Brunt’s third ODI century against Australia, the big momentum-swinger occurred in the final over of the tourists’ innings.

With Australia on a below-par 256 for seven after 49 overs, England would have fancied their chances but Wareham proceeded to hit seamer Bell for three maximums, two over midwicket, and another brace of fours.

The 26-run over went a long way to deciding the latest nail-bitter in the series, but Knight backed her young bowler to learn from the experience.

“No, not for me (the most decisive moment). Lauren has been outstanding at the death for us all series, but she is a young bowler, she will make mistakes and have days like that sometimes where it doesn’t quite go right,” Knight added.

“I think she will learn a lot from that experience.

“There is a one-day series victory on the line and it would be a really good achievement to win the T20 series and ODI series to draw the series 8-8.

“We have to rally around people, it is obviously quite a quick turnaround and there will be some emotion in that dressing room.

“But we head to Taunton tonight, down to the Holiday Inn and we have a day to regroup and go again. I think if we can end the series on a high, we can have huge pride in how we’ve played throughout the series.”

Knight had got England over the line in Wednesday’s opening ODI match in Bristol and admitted it was “horrific” to have no control in this chase.

Reflecting on Sciver-Brunt’s innings, Knight added: “It was kind of written in the stars for her to do it today.

“Unfortunately just a little bit too much but great character by her to get us even anywhere close.

“It was another unbelievably entertaining game of cricket and unfortunately we’ve been on the wrong side of this one.”

Australia spinner Alana King, who claimed three for 44, was delighted to retain the Ashes but insisted they want to win the series 10-6.

She said: “We have retained it, which is awesome but as we have said all along, we have come to win it so we have one more game to win the Ashes.”

Hannah Dingley's appointment by Forest Green Rovers has been applauded by Ellen White and Demi Stokes, with the England greats hopeful it leads to further chances for female coaches.

The League Two club promoted Dingley from her role as academy boss to caretaker head coach earlier this month, following Duncan Ferguson's dismissal.

In taking the reins at The New Lawn, Dingley has become the first woman to lead a men's senior team in English football's top four divisions.

Speaking at the launch of Pixel FC, a collective of dedicated women's football creators helping to close the visibility gap within women's football, both White and Stokes hailed the decision to appoint her.

"I think it's really exciting," White said. "It's something that everyone's been speaking about before, but I'm really excited to see a female in the men's game being a manager.

"It's really inspiring and hopefully, she does amazingly. I'm really excited to see, hopefully, more opportunities now available for women in the men's game."

White and Stokes, both members of England's Euro 2022-winning squad, outlined their hopes that Dingley's appointment will normalise pathways for women in the men's game.

"I think it's just all about visibility and [being] given an opportunity, I think that's the main thing," White added. 

"There are so many opportunities in sport for women now and hopefully, we can continue to break down barriers.

"For it not to be something that's alien or something that's very minimal [would be great]. I think it should be something that's seen and heard and visible, and that's what I'm excited to see in the future."

Stokes echoed her former team-mate's sentiments, adding: "I love it. I think it's fantastic. I think that's what you want. It should be the norm. It shouldn't be, 'oh, a female has taken over a men's side'.

"It should just be, 'this is the new manager and she is a female'. I think, male or female, as long as you're good enough for the job, then it doesn't matter who you are."

Dingley took charge of her first game on July 5, a 1-1 friendly draw with Melksham Town, and could still be in charge for Rovers' League Two opener against Salford City next month.

Footballers’ union boss Maheta Molango has highlighted the value of collective bargaining agreements in women’s sport, in a week featuring a World Cup bonus dispute between the England squad and the Football Association.

The PA news agency understands the Lionesses have been left disappointed by the fact the FA will not follow the lead of the Australian and American federations – where CBAs are in place – in paying bonuses on top of prize money being paid to players direct by tournament organiser FIFA.

Players are also understood to be frustrated over a lack of clarity over what their cut from any commercial deals done by the FA linked to the Lionesses will be, as well as the restrictions around their personal sponsorships.

Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Molango, speaking at an event to mark the Professional Players Federation’s Female Athlete Week this week, said: “We are seeing now, with many countries who are going to the World Cup, players being prepared to stand their ground when they don’t think they are being listened to.

“Issues like this really highlight for players the value of the kind of collective bargaining agreements that countries like the USA have in place in their sports, which strong player unions and associations are crucial to achieving.”

The FA has been approached for comment.

Discrimination in cricket was highlighted in a damning independent report published last week, which said sexism and misogyny towards women in the sport was “routine”.

Crucially, it called for average pay to be equalised in the domestic game by 2029 and by 2030 at international level.

Rob Lynch, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers’ Association, said at the same PPF event: “Whilst we must have that collaborative relationship (with the England and Wales Cricket Board), by virtue of the fact that they are the governing body and we represent the players, we are going to have issues and will need to have robust conversations.

“For the PCA, the collective voice is so key. When we have an issue, we need to go back to the players, explain it to them and ask them to stay tight.

“Fundamentally, keeping our players closely aligned on key topics allows us to represent their interests in the strongest way.”

Lauren Filer made an eye-catching start to her England career, snaring Australia opener Beth Mooney in the opening session of the one-off Test that kick-starts the multi-format Women’s Ashes series.

Filer was held back until the 17th over and almost had the dream start after getting an lbw verdict on Ellyse Perry from her first ball, only for an undetected edge to reprieve Australia’s batting linchpin.

But Filer vindicated her selection ahead of Issy Wong as her extra pace continued to cause issues and the tall seamer had her maiden international wicket when Mooney slashed to gully on 33 at Trent Bridge.

Kate Cross made the initial breakthrough to end a promising innings from Phoebe Litchfield, out for 23 on her first Test knock after neglecting to review an lbw verdict that would have missed off-stump.

England might have seen the back of Mooney on nine and 19 but missed tough chances in the field while their seamers were on the whole expensive as Australia raced to 100 for two after winning the toss.

Cross was entrusted with the first delivery and served up a no-ball in an opening over which yielded nine runs but she found a hint of sideways movement alongside Lauren Bell on a green-tinged pitch.

There were few alarms for the elegant Litchfield or the more cagey Mooney until Cross’ eventful fifth over. Cross was unable to cling on to a one-handed return catch off Mooney but found some succour after Litchfield shouldered arms to one that straightened and struck the left-hander’s front pad.

Litchfield eschewed a review as she trudged off and Hawk-Eye showed the ball would have sailed past off-stump.

In walked Perry with a titanic 75.2 average in this format. England have been on the receiving end of Perry’s might in the past but the hosts brought on their trump card in a bid to stifle the all-rounder.

Filer’s first ball clattered into Perry’s pads but the on-field lbw decision was overturned because of a thick inside edge discerned on replay. But Filer’s pace continued to hurry Perry in her opening over.

But it was Mooney, the top-ranked batter in ODIs and second on the list in T20s, who provided Filer with her first England wicket after a back-foot punch took the edge and carried to Cross at gully. It was a welcome wicket after Test debutant Danni Wyatt put down a diving chance off the Australia opener.

Perry (31 not out) and Tahlia McGrath (11no) ushered Australia to the lunch interval with no further alarms.

England manager Sarina Wiegman has named her squad for this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Sixteen of the 23-player contingent were part of the team that won Euro 2022, but there are some notable absentees through injury, form or retirement.

Here, the PA news agency compares the two squads.

Experience

Wiegman’s World Cup squad is far less experienced than her Euro 2022 selection, with a total of 733 caps at an average of 32 per player compared with 973 – 42 per player – among their predecessors.

Six players have fewer than 10 caps, compared with only four of last year’s contingent, while another half-dozen have amassed at least 50 caps – versus nine of the Euros squad.

Four of the five most-capped players who featured at Euro 2022 – Jill Scott (157), Ellen White (107), Demi Stokes (67) and Nikita Parris (65) – have retired or been overlooked this time, with Lucy Bronze (104) now leading the way ahead of Alex Greenwood (74).

Captain Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Fran Kirby are also absent through injury, while – of the seven new faces – only Jordan Nobbs (71) has more than 10 caps to her name.

As a result of the influx of new players, the average age of England’s squad has fallen slightly since the Euros, from 26.9 to 26.4.

Brighton’s 20-year-old winger Katie Robinson is the youngest player to be selected, ahead of Chelsea’s Lauren James (21).

Manchester City midfielder Laura Coombs is the oldest at the age of 32.

Goals

The Lionesses are not at full strength in attack, with those going to the World Cup having scored a combined 114 goals at international level compared with their predecessors’ 202.

Season-ending injuries to Mead and Kirby, as well as White’s retirement, have limited Wiegman’s options in forward areas.

Manchester United duo Ella Toone and Alessia Russo – who starred as substitutes in the last tournament – are likely to feature from the start in Australia and New Zealand, while Aston Villa’s Rachel Daly – who top scored in the Women’s Super League having switched from her previous full-back position – provides another option up front.

However, there remains a shortfall elsewhere in the squad, with seven outfield players having never scored for England compared with just two of the side that won the Euros.

The absence of key attackers has led to a decline in England’s scoring output since Euro 2022. The Lionesses have netted 32 goals in their last 11 matches at an average of 2.91 per game, as opposed to 106 in their first 20 outings under Wiegman at a rate 5.30 per game.

Club representation

There are nine clubs represented in England’s World Cup squad, compared with only six at Euro 2022.

Manchester City have provided six players, down from 10 last time but still the most of any club ahead of WSL champions Chelsea and runners-up Manchester United on four apiece.

Meanwhile, Arsenal – the other team involved in this season’s thrilling title race – have only one representative in Lotte Wubben-Moy.

The rest of the squad is made up of three players from Aston Villa, two from Barcelona and one from Bayern Munich, Brighton and Tottenham.

Bethany England has been included in Sarina Wiegman’s England squad for this summer’s World Cup, while Beth Mead misses out.

Striker England, who has not been involved for her country since last September, is recalled after scoring 12 Women’s Super League goals for Tottenham since joining them from Chelsea in January.

But there is no return for Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner and player of the tournament Mead, having lost her battle against time after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury in November.

Alex Morgan is a "global superstar" and it would be "very silly" if she was left out of the United States Women's World Cup squad, according to former team-mate Carly Telford.

The Stars and Stripes head to Australia and New Zealand in July aiming to land a third successive world title, having triumphed in 2015 and 2019, with 33-year-old Morgan hoping to feature at her fourth finals.

The San Diego Wave forward, who was also part of the side that were beaten by Japan in the 2011 final, will be desperate to be included in Vlatko Andonovski's squad, and add to her impressive tally of 121 goals in 206 caps.

Former England goalkeeper Telford, who was part of the Lionesses' squads that reached consecutive semi-finals in 2015 and 2019, knows Morgan well, having played alongside her in California before announcing her retirement in March.

Telford is adamant Morgan should not miss out on the finals.

"She's huge," Telford told Stats Perform. "Without Alex, I don't think the game would get some of the recognition that it's getting. I think she's a global superstar. 

"She performs on and off the pitch. She's not just a footballer; she stands for quality, diversity, everything that is good about being a good person.

"She'll fight for women's rights to make sure that everyone has equal opportunities. She doesn't have to do that; she could just turn up and play football.

"Spending time with her and being in a team with her for 12 months and realising the work that she does on and off the pitch, she's an absolute ambassador to the game. 

"She speaks so highly, so well about the game. I just hope she does go to the World Cup because she's a superstar, and it would be sad if she didn't. But I think she's playing well enough, it would be very silly to leave her out."

USA have been drawn alongside the Netherlands, Portugal and Vietnam in Group E, and face a potential last-16 encounter against either Sweden or Italy.

And though there is a slight veteran feel to the USA's likely roster, Telford insists their World Cup pedigree means they will take some stopping once again, and feels their character on the big stage is epitomised by Lyon forward Lindsey Horan.

"They're mentally monsters," she added. "Everyone might be like 'They're not as good as they used to be, they're ageing'. 

"But I'll tell you what, when they cross that white line, it doesn't matter who they're playing. They will fight, they will scrap, they will battle, they will try and play good football. But at the end of the day, they're just ultimate winners. 

"I think that when you've got someone like Lindsey on the pitch, she is the ultimate at that. She'll break play up, she'll bite, she'll scrap, she'll tackle, she'll drive everyone around her. 

"I just think when it comes to the Americans, when they get into competition mode; they're just a different breed."

Carly Telford has backed her former England team-mate Chloe Kelly to be the Lionesses' crucial player at the upcoming Women's World Cup.

Manchester City attacker Kelly scored the winner as England beat Germany to win the Women's Euros in 2022.

The 25-year-old did not make a start for Sarina Wiegman's team in last year's tournament, with all six of her appearances coming from the bench.

But ex-England and Chelsea goalkeeper Telford reckons Kelly will be an even more pivotal figure at the World Cup, which will take place across July and August in Australia and New Zealand.

"For the Lionesses, she's going to be probably one of our most important players," Telford told Stats Perform. "With her fitness, with her assists, hopefully with lots of goals.

"She's just a really nice kid. And she's thriving in her role and I think she's probably going to be given a lot more responsibility because she's probably going to be a starter for England, which she should be in her form.

"She's ultra-competitive. So I like to think Sarina [will] give her a lot of responsibility at this World Cup because I think she'll be ready for it."

 

Kelly has scored five goals in the Women's Super League for City this season, while providing nine assists in the competition.

It has been a pleasure to watch for Telford, who explained that Kelly has become an even stronger player since sustaining a serious knee injury in 2021.

"She's probably been Manchester City's best player, most consistent player, the most important in terms of her roles in goals and assists," Telford added.

"If you come off the back of a huge injury like that, you're probably thinking 'Am I going to come back the player I was, am I even going to come back at all?'

"She's probably come back a better player than what she was, probably a more rounded person because she's gone through some heartache and had to probably have lots of self-reflective moments like, 'Are you doing the right things?' She's come off the back of that and she's flying."

England captain Leah Williamson gave a brutal assessment of the serious knee injury that has ruled her out of the Women's World Cup, saying: "Ultimately, I think it's just my time."

The 26-year-old, who led England to Euro 2022 glory, has become the latest Arsenal player to suffer a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.

Her misfortune follows that of England striker Beth Mead and Netherlands forward Vivianne Miedema, club-mates of Williamson who are also both set to miss the July-August tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

It is an injury that is far more prevalent in the women's game than among men, and Williamson is struggling to express her sorrow over the crushing blow she has suffered. She may not play again this year.

She issued a statement shortly after Arsenal confirmed the severity of the injury, which was sustained in Arsenal's 1-0 defeat to Manchester United in the Women's Super League on Wednesday, when Williamson caught her studs in the turf at Leigh Sports Village.

Pained by the situation that has been sprung on her, Williamson said: "Until I have the words to express my feelings properly I will struggle to verbalise them. The noise around the situation is loud and I need some quiet to let it all sink in.

"Unfortunately the World Cup and Champions League dream is over for me and everyone will think that's the main focus, but it's the day to day of what I'm about to go through that is the most draining of my thoughts.

"I had my tears and made my peace with it the night it happened and since then I have been following the steps I'm told to, in order to best help myself in the short and long term.

"Ultimately, I think it's just my time. In the past couple of years alone I have watched team-mates beat serious illnesses and adversity with the biggest of smiles on their faces.

"I also hold perspective that globally there are much greater difficulties and therefore my circumstances right now are just that, circumstantial, and I've seen a lot worse."

England team-mates Chloe Kelly, Fran Kirby, Keira Walsh, Ella Toone and Alessia Russo were among those to send messages of support, with Williamson having led the Lionesses to Finalissima glory against Brazil just two weeks ago.

Arsenal have a Champions League semi-final coming up against Wolfsburg, as they bid to become European champions for a second time, and Williamson's blow hurts their hopes there.

Clearly, Williamson has suffered an immense misfortune and her reaction is that of a player in shock, although she gave an insight into the stark reality of a modern footballing life by revealing the stress her body and mind has been under in recent months.

She wrote in an Instagram post: "I haven't had a day since last October when I've walked on to the pitch without a physical or mental question mark over me, and that's professional sports. So now I have to listen to my body, give it what it needs and if everything happens for a reason, then we'll see what road this turn sends me down.

"I have given and will continue to give everything that my body, mind and heart possibly has to the Arsenal and Lionesses, I will still be there through thick and thin for all of my team-mates and their biggest supporter.

"All I ask is for a little bit of time and space to deal with all that is to come."

England captain Leah Williamson will miss the World Cup after it was confirmed she has ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament.

Williamson suffered the injury during Arsenal's 1-0 defeat to Manchester United in the Women's Super League on Wednesday after catching her studs in the turf at Leigh Sports Village.

With the World Cup starting on July 20, Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman will need to consider her other options at centre-back without Williamson, who helped lead her country to European Championships glory on home soil last year.

A statement from Arsenal on Friday confirmed the diagnosis, saying: "We can confirm that Leah Williamson suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in our Barclays Women's Super League match against Manchester United on Wednesday night.

"Leah was substituted in the first half of the game at Leigh Sports Village and underwent further assessment on Thursday to determine the extent of the injury.

"Leah will now begin a period of rehabilitation and is set for an extended spell on the sidelines. She will undergo surgery in due course.

"Everyone at Arsenal will be supporting Leah closely throughout the journey ahead and we would ask that her privacy is respected at this time."

It is the same injury sustained by Williamson's club and country team-mate Beth Mead in November, with Mead in a race against time to make it back in time for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Reacting at a press conference, boss of Arsenal's WSL title rivals Manchester City, Gareth Taylor, said: "It's obviously not good for Leah or for Arsenal or for England as well."

Taylor backed Williamson to come back strongly, saying: "She's young, she's capable enough of recovering," and pointed out the injury was "very similar to what happened with Chloe [Kelly] two seasons ago", with the striker able to return to action and hit England's winner in the European Championship final against Germany last July.

England manager Sarina Wiegman was "not worried" despite seeing her team's undefeated streak end at the hands of Australia.

The Lionesses went into the friendly on a 30-match unbeaten run, but lost 2-0 at the Brentford Community Stadium on Tuesday thanks to goals from Sam Kerr and Charlotte Grant.

It came just days after the European champions won the first ever women's Finalissima against Brazil on penalties, but Wiegman is not concerned as England prepare for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which gets underway in July.

"I'm not worried. I don't worry very quickly," she said after the game. "We know we have to be at our top level and that's when we go into the World Cup too.

"Every game we get some warnings – against Brazil we got some warnings in the Finalissima. We know where we want to go to and what we have to do.

"I don't think we're losing momentum, I think it's building. There's 100 days to go and everyone's really excited to go to Australia and this is just a very big learning moment for us that we need to get to a higher level to win these games."

On losing the undefeated streak, Wiegman added: "I haven't been focused on that ever. We just want to win every game and you remind us all of the time [about the unbeaten run] but we don't talk about that in our camp.

"We talk about the next game and we want to improve every game and try to adapt to the opponent.

"I would've loved to have had a 31st win but sometimes you win and sometimes you lose."

Captain Leah Williamson saw a mistake punished by Kerr to open the scoring, and she told ITV: "Yeah. That first goal probably made it worse for me than everybody else but the whole team feels really, really rubbish about losing. It hurts."

She added: "[It's] absolutely not a setback [before the World Cup]. Sometimes you have to take blessings in disguise and I think maybe that's not the worst thing that could've happened to us.

"We wanted to learn this whole time, we wanted to be pushed to our limits and we need to take it up a new level.

"In the past, we won those games, we turned them around but actually tonight to lose it gives you a bit of fire."

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