England’s Keira Walsh avoids ACL injury, will not play in group stage finale vs. China

Of all the teams at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup missing key players because of injuries, European champion England is among the hardest hit. The Lionesses had another setback Friday when veteran midfielder Keira Walsh exited a 1-0 win over Denmark with an injured knee.

However, the severity of the injury isn’t as bad as many initially feared. While Walsh will not play in England’s group stage final against China PR, she did not sustain an anterior cruciate ligament injury, according to a statement released by the FA.

Walsh went down in the 35th minute, clutching her right leg. She was carried off the field on a stretcher and later returned to the bench on crutches.

“It’s disappointing to see one of our most valuable players get hurt, but we had to just focus on getting the win,” said Lauren James, who scored the winning goal in the sixth minute.

In her post-match interview, England coach Sarina Wiegman said medical staff hadn’t yet fully evaluated Walsh’s injury.

“You just have to move on,” Wiegman said. “You’re at the World Cup, and you want to win that game. So we really have to adapt to a new situation as quickly as possible, and that’s what we did.”

England moved to six points in Group D with the victory.

Georgia Stanway slid back further in the midfield, and Laura Coombs went in for the Lionesses to cover the absence of Walsh, who won player of the match honors in the 2022 Euros final, which England won 2-1 over Germany. She was also one of seven players on England’s 2019 World Cup team that advanced to the semifinals before losing to the United States. More recently, Barcelona signed Walsh from Manchester City for a fee that set a record in women’s soccer.

Injuries were a concern for England entering the tournament. Beth Mead, who won the Golden Boot at the 2022 Euros, suffered an ACL injury when playing for Arsenal in December. Leah Williamson, also playing for Arsenal, tore an ACL during a match in April, causing her to miss the World Cup as well. Fran Kirby also is missing from the World Cup roster due to a knee injury.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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