Lionesses manager Sarina Wiegman has admitted that greater diversity in the squad will not happen “overnight”.
Lauren James and Jess Carter are the only black players, and Wiegman, who led England’s women to their Euros triumph last year, told Sky News it will take a “little time” for a more balanced squad to develop.
“We have some things in place, but it doesn’t change overnight,” she said.
However, after announcing her 23 player-group for this summer’s Women’s World Cup, she said the tournament in Australia and New Zealand should “inspire people, whoever you are, to come and play football”.
The Lionesses used their Euros triumph last year to lobby the government for equal access in schools.
“That will help too, but then it’s not so for tomorrow,” Wiegman said.
The players have already demonstrated they can use their platform to achieve change.
The hope is that Millie Bright – replacing injured Leah Williamson as captain – will be allowed to wear a One Love multicoloured armband to highlight LGBTQ+ rights in Australia and New Zealand.
FIFA banned them at the men’s World Cup in Qatar last year.
“I think FIFA wants to solve it and I trust them in that,” Wiegman said. “I think it’s going to be solved before we start the tournament.”
A bigger challenge is to ensure FIFA delivers on its aspiration for this to be the last Women’s World Cup without equal prize money with the men’s tournament.
“I hope that things are being done in the right way and that is equality,” Wiegman said.
“That’s just what I hope for and I think we’re moving forward.”
Going into the World Cup there is pressure on the reigning European champions not just to reach the final – as Wiegman achieved as Netherlands manager at the 2019 World Cup – but to land the Lionesses’ first world title.
“We all have a dream,” Wiegman told Sky News. “We go there to get the highest level we can and to get as far as possible.”
Every heartache presents an opportunity for an injury replacement.
Beth Mead’s ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) couldn’t be risked – despite being the top scorer at Euro 2022.
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Bethany England is back in the squad for the first time since last year after a switch from Chelsea to Tottenham in January produced the goals to earn a recall.
But the spate of ACL injuries among female players is a concern, with most boots originally designed for men.
“Every ACL that occurs you need to have a look at that individual – but also what’s happened in the pathway in the academies, the scheduling, daily schedules, the support for the player,” Wiegman said.
“So I think it’s a bigger picture. And, yes, it needs more research.”
Her England World Cup squad settled, Wiegman was able to test the public mood.
“We’re going to win it,” came the rallying cry from the kids on the pitch at Boldmere St Michaels FC in Sutton Coldfield.
“Oh, that would be nice,” the Lionesses’ manager replied.
And so she could relax, albeit briefly, following all the stresses of selecting the 23 to take to Australia – and the strains of seeing stars ruled out through injury.