Sydney (AFP): Skipper Millie Bright said that England will need to play “the game of our lives” to beat Spain in Sunday’s Women’s World Cup final.
When the Lionesses kick off at Stadium Australia in Sydney they will attempt to do what no England side, men or women, has managed since 1966 — win the World Cup.
Bright said the European champions must treat it as just another game, but admitted there was no escaping the enormity of the occasion for the country, the team and the players. Like Spain, England are into the final for the first time.
“We know how passionate our nation is back home and how much they want us to win,” Bright said on Saturday. “But for us there is a process, we have a game plan to execute and we need to play the game of our lives.”
Sarina Wiegman’s side has grown through the World Cup, combining defensive resilience with ruthlessness in front of goal. While Wiegman and Bright were keen to take the pressure off, the captain admitted it was “massive for the team” and her personally.
“I’ve always said it’s ‘we’ and not ‘me’ and I think it will be the biggest moment in our careers,” she added. “I always say ‘our’ careers and ‘we’ because it is a team. It’s a dream come true being in a World Cup final, there’s no words to describe it.”
England are boosted by the return of potent attacker Lauren James, who missed England’s last two games after being sent off against Nigeria.
Wiegman was coy about what role James could play and sounded a warning about the threat posed by a Spain side who have passed their opponents into submission at times. “I think the Spanish team is in a good place, they’ve had a very good tournament,” she said.
“As always they want to play a possession game, they’re very dynamic, they want to go forward all the time. “At moments they will challenge us, but we will challenge them too.”
Spain and England met last year in the quarter-finals of the European Championship, with the Lionesses squeezing through 2-1 in extra time. They went on to win the title for their first major trophy in international women’s football.
Wiegman has been instrumental in transforming England’s fortunes and she is in her second consecutive World Cup final. She steered her native Netherlands to the decider in 2019, when they lost 2-0 to the United States.
The Dutch coach said she had learnt lessons from that defeat, but cautioned that “this is a whole new situation, I’m coaching another team”.
“I think England is in a very good place, everyone is fit. We have grown through the tournament, we’ve grown in confidence and we are just preparing as we always do,” she added.