SYDNEY (AP) — The world’s most expensive female soccer player could be out of the Women’s World Cup. Keira Walsh’s…
SYDNEY (AP) — The world’s most expensive female soccer player could be out of the Women’s World Cup.
Keira Walsh’s knee injury in the Lionesses’ 1-0 win against Denmark on Friday leaves a hole in the heart of the midfield that may be impossible to fill.
Walsh — considered the conductor during England’s European Championship triumph last year — had to leave the field in Sydney on a stretcher and later exited the stadium on crutches.
What follows now for Walsh and England is an anxious wait to learn the severity of the damage. If the worst case-scenario is realized, the question will be how England copes without her for the rest of the tournament co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
At the Euros, “everything came through Keira. There wasn’t a Plan B,” England’s all-time leading scorer Ellen White said in her role as an analyst for the BBC. “I dreaded to think of the idea of us ever losing her because she was one of our best players. Beth Mead was scoring all the goals but all of our play came through Keira.
“She was the key cog, everything moved through her.”
Walsh joined Barcelona from Manchester City after the Euros for a reported record fee of 400,000 pounds ($513,000). Her departure from the game against Denmark, with England leading 1-0 and on top, was quickly felt and indicated just how big a loss she could be to coach Sarina Wiegman.
Denmark grew into the game, ended the stronger team and missed out on a late equalizer when substitute Amalie Vangsgaard headed against the post.
“I feel a little bit sorry for England that they lost Keira Walsh,” Denmark coach Lars Sondergaard said. “We hope it is not as bad as it looked, but of course that could also be a reason why we came back into the game — that she was not there.”
Walsh may not be as spectacular as someone like a Sam Kerr, who was ruled out of Australia’s opening two games with a calf injury, but she is considered just as vital to her team’s ambitions.
Little surprise, then, that Wiegman appeared so downbeat when questioned about the injury.
“Of course I’m concerned. She couldn’t walk off the pitch,” she said before curtly responding to White’s claim that there was no backup plan in place at the Euros.
“You saw what we did. (Georgia) Stanway dropped back and Laura (Coombs) came in,” she said.
Whether that can be a long-term fix is uncertain, given how close Denmark went to earning a draw and England’s failure to build on the promising start it made when Lauren James opened the scoring after six minutes.
She is the link between defense and attack and there is no obvious replacement for her. She can direct England’s forward moves with her vision and passing and also she operates as a protective screen for her defenders.
“She is a special player and special person. Let’s hope it isn’t as bad as it looked and it was only a precaution,” England teammate Rachel Daly said.
Walsh’s reaction to the injury did not look good.
Television cameras appeared to show her quickly signal to England’s bench that the problem was her knee. She had her hands over her face as she left the field.
Without her, England did enough to seal its second narrow win of the tournament and move to the brink of advancing to the knockout rounds.
The players can be forgiven for taking time to adapt to the loss of such a key a player in the middle of a match.
If Walsh’s injury is as bad as feared, however, England’s band of players will quickly have to adjust to life without its conductor.
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