Eng­land are clos­ing the gap on US, in­sists Wieg­man as she rel­ishes new chal­lenge

Man­ager al­ready mak­ing plans for when Neville de­parts Next Olympics will be last tour­na­ment in charge of Dutch

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - By Katie Why­att

There was an as­ser­tion from Sa­rina Wieg­man yes­ter­day dur­ing her first press con­fer­ence as Eng­land’s new man­ager that may prove to be the most pre­scient state­ment of her ca­reer. Four-time World Cup win­ners the United States are not invincible, she said, and Eng­land are clos­ing the gap.

The 50-year-old was named as Phil Neville’s suc­ces­sor last Fri­day, al­though she will of­fi­cially take the reins from him in Septem­ber next year. She will con­tinue to coach her na­tive Hol­land un­til the end of the Olympics next sum­mer, the Dutch Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, the KNVB, hav­ing given her dis­pen­sa­tion to speak to the English me­dia. The home Euros of 2022 will be her first tour­na­ment with Eng­land and, all be­ing well, she will be in charge for the World Cup in 2023 and the Euros in 2025.

She has two years, then, to mas­ter­mind the down­fall of the Amer­i­cans, who beat Neville’s Eng­land side 2-1 in last year’s World Cup semis, be­fore de­feat­ing Wieg­man’s Hol­land 2-0 in the fi­nal to win the tour­na­ment for the fourth time.

Asked if it was re­al­is­tic to think the United States could be stopped next time, Wieg­man replied: “Yes, I think so. Of course, the his­tory of the US is awe­some – it’s re­ally great – but I think other coun­tries can beat them. It’s one game. In Europe, the game is im­prov­ing so much that I think we get closer and closer, and the US knows that, too. They have to im­prove their game, too. I think other coun­tries – not only Eng­land but the Dutch, France, Ger­many – are go­ing to get there, too. Swe­den has done re­ally well. Spain is de­vel­op­ing. Coun­tries are get­ting closer and closer to each other.”

Eng­land women’s first for­eign coach al­ready has an im­pres­sive pedi­gree: a for­mer Fifa Best Women’s Coach, a Euro win­ner who is widely re­spected within the elite women’s game, and yes­ter­day she gave an as­sured per­for­mance, whereas Neville, for all his strengths, wore his heart on his sleeve and of­ten seemed close to step­ping on the rake la­belled “press con­fer­ence blun­der”.

The only point of con­cern is where Wieg­man will be based once she takes on her new role. She will in­stead ini­tially bal­ance her time be­tween Eng­land and Hol­land, be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion later. She said: “First of all, you have to do the job as good as you can. You have to per­form and do the things you need to im­prove and de­velop. At first, I’ll be in Eng­land half the time and travel back and forth. Then we’ll fig­ure out if that’s go­ing to work and if I can bring the qual­ity I need to bring. We’ll eval­u­ate that, but my fam­ily stays here in the Nether­lands for the first pe­riod.”

In the mean­time she will have to find her own work­ing rhythm as she jug­gles her cur­rent in­ter­na­tional man­age­rial po­si­tion with her next one. She has not yet spo­ken to the Eng­land play­ers. “That wouldn’t be fair or po­lite,” she said, “so ab­so­lutely not. Phil has the re­spon­si­bil­ity for the up­com­ing 12 months and I ab­so­lutely re­spect that. I’ll get

some in­for­ma­tion in the back­ground, but the last thing I want to do is to in­ter­fere with his work. I will have a close look be­cause I come in in 2021, but now my main fo­cus is the Dutch na­tional team.

“I don’t want to in­ter­rupt him or be a pain for him. He just needs to do his job well. I have the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Dutch na­tional team – that’s my main fo­cus. I’ll get some in­for­ma­tion and in the fu­ture there will, of course, be a tran­si­tion be­tween jobs and I’ll speak to Phil.”

The Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion’s am­bi­tion, for some time, has been to win a ma­jor tour­na­ment. Wieg­man achieved such a feat with Hol­land at the first time of ask­ing, play­ing on home soil in a way that cap­tured the hearts and imag­i­na­tions of the Dutch peo­ple. “We said we have the chance in our coun­try to show ev­ery­one how well we play the game,” she re­called.

She must do like­wise here. “Eng­land has a very strong team al­ready, but what I’d like to do is to add some­thing. I fol­low ev­ery team, but when I come in I have to find out what the play­ers think about what I’d like to add. It’s also about how you play, and I have a frame­work of how I’d like to play. I can add some things, but I think Eng­land al­ready has part of that frame­work. I def­i­nitely think it’s one of the best jobs in the world. I love my job.

“Ten years ago, there was no op­por­tu­nity for me to be a pro­fes­sional coach, and look where I am now. We’ve had a great jour­ney with the Nether­lands – I’m very happy to be the coach of the Dutch na­tional team and that we’ll play [at] the Olympics. But I think when I can work with the Eng­land team, that’s a world-class team and world­class sit­u­a­tion I’m in. I’m very happy to be part of that and that I can bring my knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence to the team.”

‘In Europe, the game is im­prov­ing so much that I think we get close and the US knows that, too’

As­sured: Sa­rina Wieg­man is rel­ish­ing the op­por­tu­nity of tak­ing charge of Eng­land

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.