England women’s football coach Sarina Wiegman has hinted at the possibility of former captain Steph Houghton returning to the squad for the upcoming Women’s World Cup. Although Houghton’s chances are considered “not that high,” Wiegman refuses to “close the door” on her potential inclusion.
The 34-year-old centre-back, who boasts 121 international caps, has been out of the England team since 2021. Houghton underwent surgery for an Achilles injury in February 2022 and has since been struggling to regain her place in the national squad. However, the seasoned player remains determined to keep “knocking the door” for a chance at the World Cup, which will be held in Australia and New Zealand starting July 20.
Wiegman, who led the Netherlands to the 2017 European Championship and helped England secure their first major title at the Euros last year, praised Houghton’s experience and contributions to the sport. She expressed her respect for the former captain’s dedication to her country, but also noted the current players in Houghton’s position have been performing exceptionally well.
The Lionesses recently emerged victorious against Brazil in a penalty shootout during the Women’s Finalissima. Wiegman intends to maintain a consistent lineup against Australia, ranked 10th globally, in the upcoming friendly match. The England coach remains cautious of Chelsea forward Sam Kerr, who is expected to pose a significant challenge on the field.
Despite the potential pressures of her second stint as a World Cup manager, Wiegman remains focused on the task at hand. “I don’t feel more pressure, I am coaching a different country now. We want to be the best we can be. We work every day to improve and that is what we will be focusing on,” she said.
With Houghton’s World Cup prospects uncertain, the former England captain admitted to BBC Radio 5 Live that coping with her exclusion from the national team has been “mentally tough.” She remains hopeful for closure on the situation and continues to work hard for a potential recall.
Wiegman’s decision to leave out Houghton is attributed to the strong performances of the current centre-backs in the squad. The coach acknowledged Houghton’s significant contributions to women’s football, but emphasized her responsibility to communicate her choices and provide context for her decisions.
The Women’s World Cup is set to take place from July 20 to August 20, with England aiming to make their mark on the international stage.