Leah Williamson embracing responsibility of leading England
Sarina Wiegman also gives an update on the fitness of her squad. Admits she will have to make some hard choices with her starting XI; England Women play their opening Euro 2022 match against Austria on Wednesday evening at Old Trafford
London(UK)- England captain Leah Williamson says the Lionesses squad are nervous for their Euro 2022 opener, but mostly excited and embracing the home tournament.
The Arsenal defender – although her position remains a hot topic ahead of Wednesday’s match – will lead England out to a sold-out Old Trafford as they face Austria.
There are plenty of eyes on the Lionesses heading into the European Championships, and although there are the expected nerves, Leah Williamson says her squad are looking forward to getting their campaign underway.
In her pre-match press conference, the England skipper said: “I think we’re ready for tomorrow. We’re not robots and there are going to be nerves.
“We’re aware of expectations from external sources but from within the camp, it’s all about the excitement of it and enjoying it.
“This is my job and if I wasn’t ready for it and wasn’t enjoying it why would I do it? That’s my mentality.
“The team is in a great place. Fitness-wise and all of those things in your control we’ve taken care of and we’re in a great place.
“The warm-up games provided us with the tests that we need to see where we are maybe weaker, find out what our strengths are and where we are ultimately and the form we’re in.
“They’ve provided those for us and we’ve had time to prepare.
“The home support is the 12th man. Sarina has had experience with that and she wants us to embrace it. It’s maybe something we’ve not been as good at that in the past, but we’re loving that there will be 77,000 [at Old Trafford] tomorrow and most of them will there for us.
“It’s an advantage that we’re at home and we’ll use it as much as possible and embrace that.”
It remains to be seen where Leah Williamson will play against Austria. She has played at centre-back all season for Arsenal and lined up alongside Millie Bright in defence for the final friendly against Switzerland, but has also been deployed alongside Keira Walsh in midfield in the pre-tournament matches.
But the question of where Williamson would like to play was an easy one for her to answer: “I’d like to be on the pitch, playing for England.
“I’ve never been at the Euros, to be on the pitch and playing for England is enough. Do whatever I need to do for the team.”
For Sarina Wiegman’s part, she added: “I learned a lot from the last three games and from the earlier games we played. She can play in both positions.”
There will be some familiar faces in the Austria team for Williamson too. Goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger is also the Arsenal No1, while captain Victoria Schnaderbeck spent four years with the Gunners.
“I’ve not spoken to anyone in the Austria team”, Williamson added. “But it will be great to see them tomorrow and welcome them to England.
“Hopefully it will be a nicer experience for us. It’ll be nice to welcome the girls here, but we will leave club loyalties at the door. Hopefully, the relationships are still strong after the game.”
It’s not just Leah Williamson who Wiegman has to worry about, she has some tough choices to make throughout her starting XI against Austria, but she confirmed that all 23 players are fit for selection.
However, she will not make any firm decisions on her team until after Wednesday’s final training session at Old Trafford.
“It’s really incredible and exciting,” Wiegman said. “We’re going to train in an hour to get a feel of the stadium and then we start tomorrow. I can’t wait.
“Everyone can train, everyone is on the pitch. It’s the most important thing to have the best players available. I’m really happy with it and then we have hard choices to make.
“It’s not finalised [the starting XI] yet. We do that after the last training session. We’ve shown we have a very good squad with depth and it’s really good that we have to make hard choices.
“That is an exciting moment and it would be strange if we wouldn’t be excited.
“What we’re talking about is train well, play well as a team and do the best we can. That’s in general what we talk about all the time.”