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Published 02 May 2023 4 min read
England Women's Senior Team

Sarina Wiegman reacts to England's UEFA Women's Nations League draw

Written by:

Frank Smith

England head coach discusses the games with the Netherlands, Belgium and Scotland

Sarina Wiegman is excited by the prospect of playing even more competitive fixtures following today’s UEFA Women’s Nations League draw but stressed the focus has already switched back to this summer’s World Cup.

This year will see the inaugural Women’s Nations League take place between September and December, as UEFA look to address concerns around the competitiveness of some fixtures.

England were placed in League A1 alongside the Netherlands, Belgium and Scotland during this afternoon’s draw in Nyon, Switzerland.

There will be four groups in League A and B, with five in C, with matches taking place between September and December.

The four League A group winners will then progress to the Nations League Finals between February 21-28 2024, with two semi-finals taking place to decide the two finalists, who will then secure the two other European places for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games alongside hosts France.

As per the men’s Nations League, there will be promotion and relegation between the leagues, with the results from the 2023-24 competition also having a bearing on qualification for UEFA EURO 2025 in Switzerland. (You can learn more about the European Qualifiers Phase process in the video below)

Wiegman said: “I think it is really good that UEFA have looked to improve the competitive balance. We all said we want the game to grow and always have competitive games so it is really good UEFA have looked to address that.

“The way the competition is set up, it should improve the competitive balance whilst giving everyone the opportunity to qualify for the EURO.”

25 Jun 2022 10:15

England 5-1 Netherlands | Highlights

Watch as the Lionesses take on the Netherlands at Elland Road

03 May 2023 4:29

UEFA Women's National Teams' competitions explained

How the UEFA Women's Nations League, Olympic qualification and EURO qualification are interlinked (video by UEFA)

Wiegman is an icon in her native Netherlands, having become the first women’s player to reach a century of caps before going on to lead the country as head coach to the EURO title in 2017 and a World Cup final in 2019.

The two sides faced each other last year ahead of UEFA Women’s EURO, which Wiegman won the title for a second time, but that 5-1 defeat was overseen by the Netherlands’ former coach Mark Parsons, with Andries Jonker now leading the side.

And Wiegman said: “Of course, the games against the Netherlands will be really special because we know each other really well and it is my home country. 

“I think they will be very competitive games and we saw in the friendly game last year that there was a big difference between the first half [when it was 1-1] and the second half [which finished 5-1].

“It will be really nice to not only play in England but also to play in the Netherlands with England. I expect two very competitive games and high-level games so I’m really excited about them.

“I know the head coach Andries Jonker very well. I worked with him a long time ago when he was the interim coach and I was the captain at that time, so that will be special too.

“He has changed a couple of things and he is trying to introduce a new style of play so it will be really nice to play against him.”

England celebrate Leah Williamson's goal against Belgium during the recent Arnold Clark Cup
England celebrate Leah Williamson's goal against Belgium during the recent Arnold Clark Cup

Belgium are another side the staff and players know well, with the Lionesses winning 3-0 prior to EURO 2022 and then 6-1 during February’s Arnold Clark Cup.

The Red Flames, who are currently ranked 19th in the world, narrowly missed out on World Cup qualification but did reach the quarter-finals of last summer’s EURO, plus beat Italy and South Korea during the Arnold Clark Cup.

The England head coach said: “I think Belgium are a really good side. At the Arnold Clark Cup they had a lot of injuries and struggled against us because of the squad depth but they still did well at the Arnold Clark Cup.

“In the EURO, they were really good and you really saw the improvements they have made over the years, as I have faced them several times over that time.

“Their coach Ives Serneels has been there for a long time, which gives them a level of consistency and he is really working on building the team. 

“They are always tough, they want to play football, they are really organised and they just missed out on qualification for the World Cup, so you can never underestimate a team like Belgium.”

Nikita Parris celebrates her goal against Scotland at the 2019 World Cup
Nikita Parris celebrates her goal against Scotland at the 2019 World Cup

The fourth team drawn into League A1 was Scotland.

SWNT missed out on qualification for EURO 2022 and this summer’s World Cup but under former Arsenal boss Pedro Martínez Losa beat Australia and Costa Rica during the last international window.

England have not played their neighbours since the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019 when the Lionesses won 2-1 thanks to goals from Nikita Parris and Ellen White.

And Wiegman said: “I have heard about the rivalry between England and Scotland! I’m expecting a good rivalry as lots of their players play in the Women’s Super League so will know our players.

“Pedro is well known in club football but at the moment I don’t know lots about them as we have not faced them since the World Cup in 2019.

“I haven’t had the chance to watch back their wins over Australia and Costa Rica yet but they were promising results.”

Wiegman was speaking on Tuesday night, just hours after it was confirmed that Fran Kirby would miss this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand because of requiring knee surgery.

The news comes after captain Leah Williamson was last month ruled out of the World Cup with an ACL injury, with Beth Mead suffering the same fate back in November.

Wiegman said: “It is devastating for the players and they are understandably gutted – it is really sad for the players.

“Leah has done a tremendous job as our captain and she was in good form when it happened. It is horrible for her and sad for the whole team that she will be unavailable – she will be missed.

“And it is the same with Fran. She has been out for longer and it is a different injury but we had hoped she would be able to keep progressing.

“It hasn’t worked out how we all hoped and now she will enter another schedule to try to get fit.

03 May 2023 4:29

UEFA Women's National Teams' competitions explained

How the UEFA Women's Nations League, Olympic qualification and EURO qualification are interlinked (video by UEFA)

"Most of all, it is horrible for her and disappointing for the team. But on the other hand, it gives other players the opportunity to show their quality.

“That is the tough thing and the ruthlessness thing about top sport, where we have to move on and not focus on who isn’t there but instead concentrate on who will be there and who is available, as we try to reach the highest level that we can.”

Prior to Kirby’s announcement, all the talk on Tuesday was around the first-ever Women’s Nations League but the Lionesses’ focus will swiftly switch back to this summer’s World Cup, which gets underway on July 20.

Wiegman said: “Today was exciting, now we know who we are going to face come September, but now we go back to focusing on the World Cup.

“We are in a good place with our preparations and we said at the end of the April window that we got lots of information about our team but there are so many matches to go at club level and trophies to win at club level that we will work with the technical staff and other staff on the logistics, and then we will see who is available for selection and pick the best team. Then we can really step up our preparations.”

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