England captain Leah Williamson says the Lionesses squad are nervous for their Euro 2022 opener, but mostly excited and embracing the home tournament.
The Arsenal defender – although her position remains a hot topic ahead of Wednesday’s match – will lead England out to a sold-out Old Trafford as they face Austria.
There are plenty of eyes on the Lionesses heading into the European Championships, and although there are the expected nerves, Williamson says her squad are looking forward to getting their campaign under way.
In her pre-match press conference, the England skipper said: “I think we’re ready for tomorrow. We’re not robots and there’s going to be nerves.
“We’re aware of expectation from external sources but from within the camp it’s all about the excitement of it and enjoying it.
“This is my job and if I wasn’t ready for it and wasn’t enjoying it why would I do it? That’s my mentality.
“The team is in a great place. Fitness wise and all of those things in your control we’ve taken care of and we’re in a great place.
“The warm-up games provided us with the tests that we need to see where we are maybe weaker, find out what our strengths are and where we are ultimately and the form we’re in.
“They’ve provided those for us and we’ve had time to prepare.
“The home support is the 12th man. Sarina has had experience with that and she wants us to embrace it. It’s maybe something we’ve not been as good at that in the past, but we’re loving that there will be 77,000 [at Old Trafford] tomorrow and most of them will there for us.
“It’s an advantage that we’re at home and we’ll use it as much as possible and embrace that.”
Leah Williamson on embracing the England captaincy
“I’m trying to be myself and be authentic to that role. It’s a responsibility, that’s what it is and I’ll honour it as best I can, I’m trying to embrace it all.
“I’m lucky, I play in a team with tons of experience and knowledge that I don’t have that they can share with me also.
“I’m staying true to who I am and hopefully influence the team in a positive way.”
It remains to be seen where Williamson will play against Austria. She has played at centre-back all season for Arsenal and lined up alongside Millie Bright in defence for the final friendly against Switzerland, but has also been deployed alongside Keira Walsh in midfield in the pre-tournament matches.
But the question of where Williamson would like to play was an easy one for her to answer: “I’d like to be on the pitch, playing for England.
“I’ve never been at the Euros, to be on the pitch and playing for England is enough. Do whatever I need to do for the team.”
For Sarina Wiegman’s part, she added: “I learned a lot from the last three games and from the earlier games we played. She can play in both positions.”
There will be some familiar faces in the Austria team for Williamson too. Goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger is also the Arsenal No1, while captain Victoria Schnaderbeck spent four years with the Gunners.
“I’ve not spoken to anyone in the Austria team”, Williamson added. “But it will be great to see them tomorrow and welcome them to England.
“Hopefully it will be a nicer experience for us. It’ll be nice to welcome the girls here, but we will leave club loyalties at the door. Hopefully the relationships are still strong after the game.”
Wiegman: Everyone is fit | ‘Starting XI not chosen yet’
It’s not just Williamson who Wiegman has to worry about, she has some tough choices to make throughout her starting XI against Austria, but she confirmed that all 23 players are fit for selection.
However, she will not make any firm decisions on her team until after Wednesday’s final training session at Old Trafford.
“It’s really incredible and exciting,” Wiegman said. “We’re going to train in an hour to get a feel of the stadium and then we start tomorrow. I can’t wait.
“Everyone can train, everyone is on the pitch. It’s the most important thing to have the best players available. I’m really happy with it and then we have hard choices to make.
“It’s not finalised [the starting XI] yet. We do that after the last training session. We’ve shown we have a very good squad with depth and it’s really good that we have to make hard choices.
“That is an exciting moment and it would be strange if we wouldn’t be excited.
“What we’re talking about is train well, play well as a team and do the best we can. That’s in general what we talk about all the time.”
Sarina Wiegman on facing Austria again
“Austria is very strong team, their togetherness is very good. They are tough, good psychically and very well organised.
“In November, they didn’t have what they have recently.
“If we play our best game, we will be on the ball more than they will and dominate the game more than they can do.”
Of course, Wiegman is treading familiar ground. It’s a second successive home Euros for her respective team – the 2017 edition played in her native Netherlands – but the England manager says almost everything is different from five years ago.
“The game has developed so quickly and so well,” she said. “Many counties have improved and the level is so high. It’s really hard to predict what it will look like at the end of the tournament.
“Lots of countries in good positions, so are we, I think. In tournaments, strange things can happen, but hopefully it will be an advantage for us
“Everything is bigger, there are more expectations. The level of the games is higher, so it’s hard to compare.
“More experience and more moments in higher environment [in the squad]. So it’s actually totally different, but in the end, you’re working with a team and playing football.
“As a coach, when you get experience, it’s always helpful. This situation is totally different to five years ago, but I want to share experience I have.
“In this group, we have many players who have experience, playing many great games at the highest level, so there is a lot of experience in the team. We speak about expectations, then bring it back to football.”
England’s best starting XI, Leah Williamson’s role, goal-shy first-half displays and plenty more talking points exist ahead of Wednesday’s Euro 2022 opener vs Austria at Old Trafford.
So where does Sarina Wiegman need to concentrate her attention most?
Keep up with all the latest from Euro 2022 across Sky Sports and Sky Sports News this summer.
Coverage will be anchored by Sky Sports WSL presenter Caroline Barker, alongside Jessica Creighton and Kyle Walker. Meanwhile, Karen Carney, Sue Smith, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Laura Bassett will give analysis throughout the tournament.
They will also be joined by experienced England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and Manchester City defender Esme Morgan.
The pundits and presenters will work from the Sky Sports Women’s Euro 2022 Mobile Presentation Bus, which will follow the Sky Sports News team around the country to the various stadiums where matches are being played.
In addition, Sky Sports’ Essential Football Podcast will be rebranded for the tournament to Sky Sports Women’s Euros Podcast from 21 June. Hosted by Charlotte Marsh and Anton Toloui, it will feature exclusive news and player interviews in addition to a strong programme line-up around the tournament.
Group A: England, Austria, Norway, Northern Ireland
Group B: Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland
Group C: Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, Switzerland
Group D: France, Italy, Belgium, Iceland
Wednesday July 6
Group A: England vs Austria – kick-off 8pm, Old Trafford
Thursday July 7
Group A: Norway vs Northern Ireland – kick-off 8pm, St Mary’s
Friday July 8
Group B: Spain vs Finland – kick-off 5pm, Stadium MK
Group B: Germany vs Denmark – kick-off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Saturday July 9
Group C: Portugal vs Switzerland – kick-off 5pm, Leigh Sports Village
Group C: Netherlands vs Sweden – kick-off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Sunday July 10
Group D: Belgium vs Iceland – kick-off 5pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Group D: France vs Italy – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Monday July 11
Group A: Austria vs Northern Ireland – kick-off 5pm, St Mary’s
Group A: England v Norway – kick-off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Tuesday July 12
Group B: Denmark vs Finland – kick-off 5pm, Stadium MK
Group B: Germany vs Spain – kick-off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Wednesday July 13
Group C: Sweden vs Switzerland – kick-off 5pm, Bramall Lane
Group C: Netherlands v Portugal – kick-off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village
Thursday July 14
Group D: Italy vs Iceland – kick-off 5pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Group D: France vs Belgium – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Friday July 15
Group A: Northern Ireland v England – kick-off 8pm, St Mary’s
Group A: Austria vs Norway – kick-off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Saturday July 16
Group B: Finland vs Germany – kick-off 8pm, Stadium MK
Group B: Denmark vs Spain – kick-off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Sunday July 17
Group C: Switzerland vs Netherlands – kick-off 5pm, Bramall Lane
Group C: Sweden vs Portugal – kick-off 5pm, Leigh Sports Village
Monday July 18
Group D: Iceland vs France – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Group D: Italy vs Belgium – kick-off 8pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Wednesday July 20
Quarter-final 1: Winners Group A v Runners-up Group B – kick-off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Thursday July 21
Quarter-final 2: Winners Group B v Runners-up Group A – kick-off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Friday July 22
Quarter-final 3: Winners Group C v Runners-up Group D – kick-off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village
Quarter-final 4: Winners Group D v Runners-up Group C – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Tuesday July 26
Semi-final 1: Winners quarter-final 1 v Winners quarter-final 3 – kick-off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Wednesday July 27
Semi-final 2: Winners quarter-final 2 v Winners quarter-final 4 – kick-off 8pm, Stadium MK
Sunday July 31
Winners semi-final 1 v Winners semi-final 2 – kick-off 5pm, Wembley