BIRMINGHAM — Bethany England and Millie Bright were included in England manager Sarina Wiegman's 23-player squad for the Women's World Cup on Wednesday as the Dutch coach dealt with missing a number of key players due to injury.
Wiegman unveiled her selection 50 days before the World Cup kicks off in Australia and New Zealand on July 20.
Striker England returns after her impressive form for Tottenham Hotspur in the Women's Super League while Chelsea defender Bright is included despite not having played since March due to an injury. Bright will captain England in place of the sidelined Leah Williamson.
"Everyone you call, it is a nice moment and especially when it's a positive message," Wiegman said at a press conference. "We had some very nice phone calls, some players that were anxious about it.
"We have some injuries but we still have a very good squad and good squad depth."
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The Lionesses, who won bronze in Canada in 2015 and came fourth four years ago in France, begin their World Cup campaign on July 22 against Haiti in Brisbane. They also have Denmark and China in Group D.
The European champions have been rocked by a number of serious injuries, sidelining captain Williamson, Beth Mead and Fran Kirby among others and creating significant selection dilemmas for Wiegman.
Williamson tore her anterior cruciate ligament in April, Mead, England's women's player of the year in 2021-22, tore her ACL in November, but had been hopeful she would recover in time.
"(Mead) is so positive and she's going really well, but we set the time schedule she had, we would have taken so many risks to try and get her to the World Cup. (We didn't want) To push her too much and she gets injured again," Wiegman said.
"Of course, most of all for Williamson, it is very sad but that is the same for Fran and Beth. You have to move on, too. Unfortunately this is a part of top sport. You can get injured."
Bright, who was vice-captain to Williamson, moves into the captain role. England earned her first call-up since Euro 2022 after scoring 12 goals in 12 Women's Super League games since moving to Tottenham in January.
Players can gather from June 23. However, Wiegman said it was disappointing that the women were limited to 23-player squads, while the men had 26 for their World Cup in Qatar last year.
"We wanted to bring it to 26," said Wiegman, who led the Netherlands to a runners-up finish at the 2019 World Cup. "I don't think having 26 makes the injury risk lower, (but) I think you then have more options when something happens and you can keep someone in the squad and give more rest.
"The congested schedule, we all know when we move forward we have to do a better job all together to make it better in all stages and get better scheduling for the players."
Maya Le Tissier, Jess Park and Emily Ramsey have been named on standby and will train with the squad when they report to St. George's Park in June.
Wednesday's announcement was held at Boldmere St. Michaels FC as part of the Lionesses' goal to inspire future generations.
England Women's World Cup Squad 2023:
- Goalkeepers: Mary Earps, Hannah Hampton, Ellie Roebuck
- Defenders: Millie Bright, Lucy Bronze, Jess Carter, Niamh Charles, Alex Greenwood, Esme Morgan, Lotte Wubben-Moy
- Midfielders: Laura Coombs, Jordan Nobbs, Georgia Stanway, Ella Toone, Keira Walsh, Katie Zelem
- Forwards: Rachel Daly, Bethany England, Lauren Hemp, Lauren James, Chloe Kelly, Katie Robinson, Alessia Russo.
(Reporting by Lori EwingEditing by Christian Radnedge)