Wiegman defends England’s decision to play in Spain despite huge crowd drop | England women’s football team

Sarina Wiegman said England must find a balance between the conditions they play and train in and large crowds, as they prepare for Tuesday’s meeting with Italy in Algeciras. Around 950 fans bought tickets for England’s 7-2 win over Austria at the Estadio Nuevo Mirador last Friday, a far cry from the huge numbers they attract in England.

“It’s about finding a balance,” Wiegman said. “What we wanted to do was play good friendlies in good circumstances. We have very good locations here, the weather is also good. We knew there probably wouldn’t be as many fans here as we hoped.

“We will be back in England. We have games in April, June and July and the rest of the season we will play a lot in England. I hope this connects us enough with the fans.

Against Italy, England will face a different challenge. “They had a great campaign in the Nations League,” Wiegman said. “They play a little differently. They changed coaches. They played in different forms. They want to put a lot of pressure on us, so that’s something we’ll be aware of. It’s a challenge for us, so we really enjoy it.

England will be without Fran Kirby after the midfielder’s early return to Chelsea. “She’s fine but she went home,” Wiegman said. “She has some irritation in her knee. It’s a minor injury but we didn’t want to take any risks so she is being evaluated at her club. We don’t expect it to be a serious injury.

However, Chloe Kelly will be back and Wiegman said the Manchester City defender is flying in training. “I hope that’s what she’ll do later this morning and be ready for tomorrow.”

Wiegman took advantage of back-to-back friendlies and the Under-23s’ participation in the camp to experiment with his starting XI and provide training opportunities. On Sunday, Naomi Layzell, Aggie Beever-Jones, Jess Naz and Laura Blindkilde Brown were called up to train with the senior team.

Asked about the youngsters looking to get their jerseys back, midfielder Keira Walsh said: “That’s the hope, isn’t it, that they come in and take our place. It’s really nice for them to be with us and around us. Four of them trained with us yesterday and we had a very good session. We work closely with them to be able to share the same ideas about football.

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Wiegman said: “Yesterday was another opportunity to bring some of them in and give them the experience of playing and training with the seniors. For us, it was an opportunity to see where we are and see what’s good. They also liked it.

“We don’t plan to sign any more players but let’s see how things develop because we still have one training session and they play one match.”

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