STEPH HOUGHTON: England are favourites to win the World Cup, despite their freakish injury problems, but key players must step up and fill the leadership void left by Leah Williamson
- England will kick off their Women’s World Cup campaign against Haiti
- They could not have asked for better opponents to start their World Cup against
- England have suffered key injuries but have quality and depth in their ranks
England could not have wished for a better first opponent at this World Cup than Haiti.
You are always looking to get three points on the board and ease yourself into the tournament but England do need to be careful.
These sorts of teams always pose a different problem. It won’t be like Denmark or China — they won’t have a set way of playing and there won’t be as much information to study in the build-up.
Haiti could spring a few surprises but I know the England players will be 100 per cent prepared. The priority is to get the three points rather than to put in an amazing performance.
We have had a lot of injuries to key players but I believe that England are the tournament favourites — although it is more open than it has been and really difficult to predict. Previously it has just been the USA because nobody was going to stop them. Now there are five or six teams who could win it.
England have a lot of injuries but Steph Houghton believes they are the tournament favourites
Sarina Wiegman is missing key players through injury but has quality and strength in depth
Despite missing players, England have quality and strength in depth. It is going to be an exciting few weeks but it has been pretty freakish with the injuries that have occurred. A lot has been written about the high number of ACL injuries in the women’s game. I did mine in 2009 and ended up missing the Euros. It happened during a tackle. Sometimes you plant the leg, try to change direction and it goes.
Women’s bodies are different to men’s and maybe we need to look at what is causing this. Are the clubs and countries doing enough to look after players? Are players doing everything in terms of nutrition and recovery? Do we need to do more strength work on knees, hamstrings and quads?
In some cases the fixtures and the schedule are not helping. The WSL season finished on May 27 and the Champions League final was on June 3. And now we’re into the World Cup. If we are to succeed without the likes of captain Leah Williamson, others are going to have to step forward into leadership roles.
When I was captain, my mate Lucy Bronze was vice-captain and she will play a big part. She loves playing for her country and I have never played with someone who wants to win so much.
Given everything she has achieved in the game, she will definitely be someone the younger players look up to. She is 31 and a player’s age can get bandied about but I still think she is the best right back in the world.
There will be no distractions in the group and it was a big step in the right direction when the players put out their statement about bonuses.
I know there has been frustration but you do not want to go into a tournament with something hanging over you.
Millie Bright, Lucy and Leah have been involved in the talks and it is annoying that the situation was not resolved. The FA have always said they want to be one of the leading nations, they want to be seen as the federation setting the standard, but that has always been the USA.
Haiti are England’s first opponents and could spring a few surprises in Brisbane on Saturday
Houghton is is speaking to Mail Sport in conjunction with the Darby Rimmer Foundation
Whenever we have tried to improve contracts or facilities we are comparing ourselves to the US and one day you hope that it is England who everyone looks to.
Hopefully, with time, it gets sorted. You want the women’s team to mirror the men’s team. We have made great strides but it is on all of us to keep pushing.
I know the atmosphere in the camp has been good. I’ve spoken to my team-mate Chloe Kelly and Alex Greenwood and checked in with Lucy. At this stage, they just want to get started. The group seems relaxed and really focused. They are ready.
Steph Houghton is speaking to Mail Sport in conjunction with the Darby Rimmer Foundation. To donate, visit: darbyrimmermnd.co.uk
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