England’s Georgia Stanway is confident she can fill the leadership void in midfield left by the injured Keira Walsh when the Lionesses take on China in their final Group D game at the Women’s World Cup on Tuesday.
The fourth-ranked Lionesses, who beat Haiti and Denmark 1-0 in their first two games, are top of Group D on six points, with a draw against China enough to see them through to the knockout rounds.
Walsh, an integral part of the England team that won the Euros last year, was taken off the pitch on a stretcher after crumpling to the turf in the 38th minute of their win over Denmark with a knee injury.
The 26-year-old left the stadium on crutches, but scans have ruled out an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, and England’s coaching staff are hopeful Walsh can return for the knockout stages of the tournament.
“I feel I’ve proven my leadership in the way that I play and lead by example,” Stanway told reporters on Monday. “I’m not afraid to communicate as well, so I’ll try and do the two jobs.
“I feel a lot of confidence in my own game, and I’ve been consistent off the back of the Euros, so I’m just trying to keep that momentum.”
With Walsh unavailable, Stanway said she would have to drop back into more of a defensive midfield role and resist the temptation to fly into tackles.
“I have to make sure I’m covering the back four and I’m disciplined. I just need to stay on my feet and make sure there’s players in front of me,” she said.
“Going into tomorrow, it’s about communicating in the middle of the pitch. I think for me, it’s just covering that discipline element into the game, knowing I don’t always have to be running to help with the attack.
“It’s just knowing I need to protect the back four too. That position comes naturally to me.”
England coach Sarina Wiegman did not offer any further details on Walsh’s injury but said her team were strong enough to cope with the influential midfielder’s absence.
“Every game we want to be at our best,” Wiegman said. “We know she’s not available and we will find solutions which we can hopefully show tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, China, who have three points from two games, need a win to boost their chances of qualifying for the knockout stage at the showpiece tournament.
Wang Shuang kept China’s campaign alive by converting a penalty in last week’s 1-0 win over bottom side Haiti.