Keira Walsh hoping England can do injured team-mates proud in World Cup final
Keira Walsh vowed England are determined to honour their injured team-mates and “get the job done” when they face Spain in Sunday’s World Cup final.
This is the furthest the Lionesses have ever advanced in a global showpiece, with Wednesday’s 3-1 semi-final victory over co-hosts Australia assuring them of at least one place higher than the bronze medal achieved eight years ago in Canada.
England have reached this unprecedented stage without Euro 2022-winning captain Leah Williamson, that tournament’s Golden Boot winner Beth Mead, and one of the game’s most creative attackers in Fran Kirby, all of whom were ruled out of this event with knee injuries.
“I think it is difficult for them,” said Walsh, who started every game of the Euros triumph alongside that trio.
“Obviously when you think about it, they would want nothing more than to be here. It is probably a bit bittersweet. They want us to win and we would want them to be here as well. Leah, Beth and Fran have been really supportive.
“They have messaged after every game. For us, hopefully we can get the job done on Sunday and make them proud of us. I think you are obviously a little bit nervous, but it’s a World Cup final. I think you have just got to enjoy the moment.
“Leah texted me and Georgia (Stanway) and she said ‘just enjoy it. It’s not every day you are playing in the semi-final of a World Cup.’ It will be the same on Sunday.
“When you look back to the Euros, that was probably the most excited everyone has been, the vibes were really good and positive. Hopefully we can have that on Sunday. For me, the most important thing is the girls just enjoy it and take it all in. Live in the moment, because it doesn’t happen every day.”
The PA news agency understands Williamson plans to attend the final, while Mead and Kirby will continue their recovery in England.
Walsh will be well-acquainted with multiple members of the Spain squad who the Lionesses will face at the 75,000-plus capacity Stadium Australia.
Nine of them play with both Walsh and England defender Lucy Bronze at Barcelona, who won the Champions League final in June.
Asked if that might mean Lionesses boss Sarina Wiegman could be turning to her for advice ahead of the monumental match, Walsh replied: “I imagine so, I think she will. But then the girls know about me and Lucy, so it works both ways.
“The Barca girls are obviously unbelievable players and I am sure whatever I say, they will probably come up with something different because they are very special players. But we have got full belief in ourselves and what we can do. Looking forward to it.”
While Walsh is a shoo-in for Sunday’s starting XI, Wiegman, who led Netherlands to the final four years ago, does face one particularly potent dilemma.
Lauren James scored three goals and picked up the same number of assists before she was sent off late in the second half of England’s last-16 victory over Nigeria.
She has now served the two-game ban she was issued for stepping on the back of defender Michelle Alozie, and would be available to start the most important match in Lionesses’ history.
Ella Toone has stepped in for the quarter-final and semi-final, scoring the opener on Wednesday and in the process making her boss’ decision more difficult.
Walsh said: “I think obviously people are going to speak about that, but I think everyone has got to give Tooney credit. She has come back in and she has done an unbelievable job again.
“People probably won’t speak about it too much, but it’s not easy to come in for a quarter-final or semi-final when all the spotlight has been on the player’s place you are taking.
“I think she was unbelievable. She tackled, she got stuck in, she took us up the pitch, she gave us a lot of security. LJ is a massive talent, but I think we have got to put some respect on Tooney’s name as well. She has been fantastic.”