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Fran Kirby a fitness doubt for Sarina Wiegman's first match in charge of England

:Headline: Fran Kirby a fitness doubt for Sarina Wiegman's first match in charge of England:
The Chelsea playmaker will be assessed ahead of the clash with North Macedonia in Southampton.
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England could be without Fran Kirby when they make their bow under Sarina Wiegman against North Macedonia on Friday.

The new Lionesses boss said on Thursday that Kirby was to be assessed ahead of the contest at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium.

Speaking at her pre-match press conference, Wiegman said when asked about the Chelsea playmaker: “Today she will start up training a little more and after this training session we’ll decide what we do.

Sarina Wiegman has taken charge of England after four-and-a-half years as Holland boss (Andrew Matthews/PA).

“She hasn’t had much training load this week, so we are not going to take any risk. She just needed some managing of load and we didn’t want to take any risk to push that.”

Wiegman said that otherwise, everyone in her squad was fit, and that the team she selects on Friday will be “very strong I think.”

After the North Macedonia game – a first match for England Women in front of fans since 2019 – the second part of what is a World Cup qualifying double-header sees them play Luxembourg away next Tuesday.

While England are eighth in the world rankings, North Macedonia and Luxembourg lie 131st and 122nd respectively.

Wiegman said of the two games: “First of all the priority is to win, and we want to have good wins, to score a lot of goals, conceding none. Tomorrow night we want to show how good we can play and make the crowd proud of us.”

The 51-year-old Dutchwoman has taken charge after four-and-a-half years as Holland boss, which included winning Euro 2017 on home soil and finishing as runners-up at the 2019 World Cup in France.

Asked what she had seen from her new team so far in training, she said: “I’ve seen many things. First of all an enormous, great work ethic.

“I’m very excited I can work with the team, but they work so hard, sometimes we have to ask just to slow down a little bit.

“Tomorrow night we want to show how good we can play and make the crowd proud of us.””
- Sarina Wiegman

“Very much quality. We had some principles we brought in, and they are just going for it and they really want to do very well. I (have) really enjoyed, and hopefully we can show that on the pitch tomorrow.”

Wiegman has come in ahead of England hosting the Euros next summer, and she added: “What I know is we have a very good team, that the players are very willing to become better, to work together, very eager to learn.

“The ingredients are here to perform really well. The competition will be so strong, so I don’t know where we will be next year. But I know now that the start is really good, I’m really enjoying it and these are the ingredients to continue and to become better.”

Wiegman is the permanent successor to Phil Neville after he stepped down in January to take charge of Major League Soccer outfit Inter Miami.

Wiegman was joined at Thursday’s press conference by England captain Steph Houghton (Andrew Matthews/PA).

The Lionesses were subsequently managed on an interim basis by Hege Riise, who oversaw a victory over Northern Ireland and defeats to France and Canada before being in charge for Great Britain’s Tokyo Olympics campaign that ended in the quarter-finals.

England have won only four of their last 14 games, losing nine, stretching back to their 2019 World Cup semi-final defeat to the United States.

Steph Houghton, England’s captain since 2014 who is set to continue to wear the armband for at least the two upcoming fixtures, said: “I think for us this is kind of like starting afresh, I think it’s a clean slate for everybody.

“Of course results after the World Cup weren’t up to our standard and what was expected of an England team, and there were some performances that were below par. But for me and for the rest of the players it’s all about just trying to go out there and show everybody what a good team we are, because we have some exceptional players.”

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