England will need the game of their lives to beat Spain in Women’s World Cup final: Millie Bright
SYDNEY – England will have to produce the game of their lives if they are to make history by beating Spain in the Women’s World Cup final to secure a first global title, captain Millie Bright said on Saturday.
Bright said the significance of Sunday’s match, both for the players and an expectant nation, was not lost on the European champions but that they would prepare as if it was any other game.
“For us, we live in the moment,” the centre-half said at Stadium Australia. “And yes, it’s a World Cup final but for us our mentality is it’s another game. Our preparations don’t change no matter the stage in a tournament, and to me that’s key.
“We’ve got a game plan that we have to go out and execute but I think everyone knows how big this is. I think it’s been players’ dreams for years.
“We know how passionate our nation is back home and how they’d want us to win.
“But, for us, it’s a process, we have a game plan to execute and... we need to play the game of our lives.”
The calm professionalism that Bright exuded on the eve of the biggest match of her career was perhaps a reflection of coach Sarina Wiegman, who led England to their first major title at Euro 2022.
“As a team, we express ourselves and we have the confidence to do that,” Bright added.
“We don’t fear making mistakes and for me, that is the biggest thing. Football is such a beautiful thing but I think maybe when you play it a little bit hesitant, you don’t see the best in people.
“For me, with Sarina coming in, we’ve had a real shift in confidence.”
Wiegman led her native Netherlands to the 2019 final, where they lost to the United States, but she said Sunday was “a whole new situation”.
“It’s not 2019, it’s 2023 and I think England is in a very good place,” she said.
“Everyone’s fit, we grew in the tournament, we grew in confidence. We just hope that we play our best game ever tomorrow and everyone is going to enjoy it.”
There was a shift in Wiegman’s usual openness when she was quizzed about whether she would start Lauren James on Sunday, with the attacker having completed a two-game ban for stamping on an opponent in the last-16 contest against Nigeria.
“She’s good,” the coach said. “Of course, she kept training and it’s really nice to have 23 players available for tomorrow.”
Her opposite number, Spain coach Jorge Vilda, on Saturday declined to answer questions about the mutiny in his squad in 2022 and said his team were united, having fun and determined to win their country a first Women’s World Cup.
La Roja’s run to the final is all the more remarkable, given that a dozen of their top players did not travel to the World Cup after they withdrew in a row over team culture.
“Next question, please,” was Vilda’s terse response to the attempt to tease an answer out of him on the issue.
Further attempts to approach the matter were parried by the coach, but he was prepared to share some thoughts about the mood in the camp.
“From the very beginning, the players have been united and they’ve been working hard,” he said. “We’ve been together and tomorrow we want to celebrate together.”
Centre-half Irene Paredes was one of three senior players who spoke out in support of the mutineers but was later reintegrated into the squad. She echoed the coach’s words about the unity in the camp.
“It is a team,” she said. “It has evolved over the last few years with veteran players and young players playing their part.” - REUTERS