Fifa Women’s World Cup: England v Haiti preview – Millie Bright on opening game

England players at Brisbane Stadium
Hosts: Australia and New Zealand Dates: 20 July-20 August
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The Lionesses have been “itching to begin” their Women’s World Cup campaign, says captain Millie Bright as England prepare to face Haiti.

The European champions, who will play their Group D opener at Brisbane Stadium on Saturday at 10:30 BST, also face Denmark and China in their pool.

England are seeking to win their first Women’s World Cup while Haiti are making their debut in the tournament.

“Knowing now that we play tomorrow is even more exciting,” said Bright.

“Everyone has been itching for the tournament to officially begin. We’re all raring to go. The girls were all watching the [opening night] games and the excitement levels are really high.

“We’re just counting down the hours for ourselves.”

Manager Sarina Wiegman led England on a 30-game unbeaten run before defeat against Australia in April and is aiming to reach a second successive World Cup final having been a beaten finalist with the Netherlands in 2019.

“We are here and we have a dream. Of course there is always a chance to win the World Cup and many more countries can win the World Cup I think,” she added.

“But, of course, we are going to give our everything – starting tomorrow.”

‘Pressure is always on England’

Sarina Wiegman

England, ranked fourth in the world, are one of the tournament favourites but face stiff competition from the United States, who are aiming to become the first nation to win three successive titles.

The tournament, hosted by Australia and New Zealand, comes a year after England won their first women’s major trophy at the home European Championship.

“The pressure is always on England. Everyone expects England to win anyway – that was also the case last year – that’s not different now,” said Wiegman.

The build-up to England’s opening game has been dominated by news off the pitch, including Bright’s choice of Fifa-sanctioned armbands and player frustration relating to negotiations with the Football Association over performance-related bonuses .

There are also notable absentees from the squad, with Euro 2022 captain Leah Williamson, Ballon d’Or runner-up Beth Mead and Chelsea playmaker Fran Kirby all ruled out through injury.

There were question marks over defender Bright’s fitness following knee surgery in April but Wiegman confirmed she is “absolutely ready to go” against Haiti.

“Unfortunately injuries are part of football and we have to move forward,” said Bright. “I think we’ve got an amazing group of players and staff – everyone has stepped up. We’re raring to go.”

‘They have a problem with scoring’

Nicolas Delepine

Wiegman said England have left “no stone unturned” in their preparation for the game against Haiti, who are ranked 49 places lower in the world ranking.

It will be the first time the two teams have faced each other in a competitive fixture after Haiti qualified for their first World Cup.

Nicolas Delepine’s side will be underdogs against England but the Lionesses’ have not scored in their last three games, including a goalless behind-closed-doors World Cup warm-up match with Canada.

“England are a good attacking side, but maybe they have a problem with finishing,” said Delepine.

However Wiegman said “the business of my job is done” and trusts her players to deliver in Saturday’s opener despite underwhelming recent performances, including a goalless draw with Portugal .

“They know exactly how we want to play, what we want to do. I just hope that now we are ready, we still have some meetings, but the game plan is ready,” she told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Our style of play is clear, the tasks are clear and we go out there to hopefully shine. I hope we see a very entertaining England team who wants to attack, are very aware of the qualities of Haiti and play with freedom.”

‘England need to put goal drought right’

BBC Sport football expert Rachel Brown-Finnis is predicting the outcome of all 64 games at the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup:

“It’s been strange to see England struggling to score goals – their drought has lasted three games now – so they really need to put that right here.

“They should still get the job done and beat a Haiti team playing at their first World Cup, but it might not be an especially convincing performance. I just hope it gives England some confidence to take forward for their games to come.”

Brown-Finnis’ prediction: 2-0

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