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Women’s World Cup 2023: England suffer huge blow as captain Leah Williamson suffers ACL injury

England have been dealt a major blow as captain Leah Williamson confirms she has been told she will miss the Women’s 2023 World Cup which is set to take place in Australia and New Zealand in only three months time.

England’s Leah Williamson during the Womens Finalissima at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Thursday April 6, 2023. Copyright: xBradleyxCollyerx

England’s Euro 2020 leader won’t be at the World Cup

England captain Leah Williamson has said that her “World Cup and Champions League dream is over” after her club Arsenal confirmed that she has suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

The injury took place during Arsenal’s 1-0 Women’s Super League loss to Manchester United on Wednesday, when Williamson went down in the first half of the game. ACL injuries usually see sportspeople sidelined for six to nine months.

Williamson, who captained England to their European Championship victory in 2022, is the latest injury setback for Sarina Wiegman‘s Lionesses. England are already expecting to travel to the tournament in Australia and New Zealand without Beth Mead, who finished top scorer last summer, because of an ACL injury. There are also doubts over Chelsea forward Fran Kirby’s availability, having been out of action since February.

Siobhan Chamberlain, who was part of the England squad that finished third at the 2015 World Cup, said the injury was “horrific timing”. “She is a key part of the team. It is devastating news for her, Arsenal, England and anyone who has big hopes for England,” former goalkeeper Chamberlain told the BBC.

The injury may provide an opportunity for former captain and Manchester City centre-back Steph Houghton to return to the fold. Houghton is yet to play under Wiegman because of injuries and then selection choices. Speaking earlier in April, Wiegman said Houghton’s chances of making the squad were “not that high” but she would “never close the door”. “She just has to go about her business and play for Manchester City.”

Have England’s chances in New Zealand & Australia been dealt a blow?

According to BBC Sport journalist Emma Sanders, “It is the worst possible news for Sarina Wiegman with three months to go until the World Cup. Williamson’s importance to England cannot be understated. She is the captain, part of a formidable centre-back partnership with Millie Bright and a calming influence on her team-mates.”

“She started and captained every game as England won Euro 2022 last summer and played in 22 of the Lionesses’ incredible 30-match unbeaten run.”

Sanders also added that Williamson’s injury compounds the disappointment of another important absentees, including the Three Lionesses top scorer at the Euros last year. “With Arsenal team-mate Beth Mead already ruled out with an ACL injury, England are now almost certainly without last summer’s top scorer and their captain, while Chelsea’s Fran Kirby and Bright are currently on the injury list, adding to concerns.”

Beth Mead showed her support for her Arsenal teammate with a tweet saying “we are with you every step of the way”. Meanwhile, her club Arsenal and the England National team also showed their support, the latter posting a message saying “You’ll come back stronger than ever.”

England will face Haiti, Denmark, and China in their group stage games which begin on 22nd July 2023 in Queensland, Australia.

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