On Wednesday, England will face euphoric hosts at the Women’s World Cup. With a trump card up her sleeve: three-time World Cup coach Sarina Wiegman.
The crowd of over 80,000 in Sydney will be impressive, but the majority will certainly not be for the European champions from England. Will Australia, driven by their home fans, make it to a World Cup final for the first time? Or will it be England? At the very least, the recent record favours the Matildas, with a 2-0 win in a Test match four months ago.
If only it weren’t for Sarina Wiegmann. For the England women’s coach, the defeat to Australia was the only one in the 37 international matches since she took up her post in September 2021, but otherwise successes pave her way. The three-time “World Coach of the Year” can look forward to a fourth consecutive appearance in the final of a major tournament – practically a permanent contract.
With her native Netherlands, Wiegman celebrated the European Championship title in 2017 with a 4-2 win over Denmark, in 2019 she was runner-up with the Oranje after a 2-0 loss to the USA, and with the Lionesses she won the European Championship title again in 2022 with a victory in the final against the DFB women (2-1 after a draw). Can the 53-year-old be stopped by the Australians on the way to her fourth final?
Twelve coaches – only Wiegman is left in the tournament
And there is another balance in Wiegman’s favour. She is the only one of the original twelve coaches still in the competition with her team – and since 2012, all titles at major events have gone to teams coached by a woman. In 2012, the USA snatched Olympic gold with Pia Sundhage, in 2013 Germany celebrated the European Championship title with Silvia Neid and gold at the Olympics in 2016, Jill Ellis celebrated the World Cup with the US team in 2015 and 2019 respectively, and first place at the 2021 Olympics went to Canada with Beverly Priestman.
A good omen, then, for England ahead of the walk to Sydney. But Wiegman certainly doesn’t want to rely on that. “I really like the people here but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a rivalry. That’s what we’ll see on Wednesday,” the football coach warns her team about Australia. “We know it’s an away game. Let’s try to take it as inspiration. “
It would also be England’s first appearance in a World Cup final, the Lionesses have already defied all odds on their way to the last four. Captain Leah Williamson, European Championship top scorer Beth Mead and playmaker Fran Kirby all missed out in Down Under through injury, while Lauren James, who has already scored three times, also saw red in the round of 16 against Nigeria and would not be eligible to play again until the final.
Wiegman, however, always had solutions to the personnel setbacks, she was already at “her Plan F or G” for this World Cup, as the European champion Ellen White, who has since retired, explained to the BBC. Now plan A is to take effect: the fourth final in a row for Wiegman and thus the first World Cup final for England.