Williamson: ‘I won’t waste a second not enjoying this’

Arsenal star to lead England in front of 73,000 fans as Euros campaign kicks off at Old Trafford

Thursday, 30th June — By Catherine Etoe

Leah Williamson - credit Catherine_Etoe

Leah Williamson training at St George’s Park. Photo: Catherine Etoe

THE countdown to Euro 2022 is on as England prepare to face Austria in front of more than 73,000 spectators at Old Trafford next Wednesday, with Gunner Leah Williamson leading the team.

The 25-year-old Arsenal defender played only a few minutes at the World Cup in 2019, but she comes into this 16-team European Championship on home soil wearing the England armband. With more than 450,000 tickets already snapped up, Uefa and the FA say this looks set to be “the biggest women’s European sport event in history”.

All eyes will be on the hosts and their new skipper, but Williamson, who was once an England mascot, was pragmatic when she met the media at St George’s Park.

“I take it more as a responsibility rather than pressure,” she said.

“I do feel like I would have given anything to get on the pitch [with England], so I don’t intend to waste a second now not enjoying it.”

Williamson is not the only Gunner selected by head coach Sarina Wiegman for this tournament – Beth Mead, Nikita Parris and Lotte Wubben-Moy are also in the mix.

Beth Mead scored a brace in Friday’s friendly against the Netherlands at Elland Road. Photo: Catherine Etoe

“They’re the players you’re familiar with, they know what you’re about,” Mead told the New Journal. “It’s always nice to have those people around you, [but] I would happily go to a lot of the girls and I think that’s the blend right now that we’ve got right.”

Mead looked perfectly at ease in front of almost 20,000 spectators in a thrilling friendly with the Netherlands at Elland Road on Friday. A second-half substitute, the in-form forward scored a brace as England came from a goal behind to sweep away the reigning European champions 5-1.

England are unbeaten in 13 under Wiegman, who led the Dutch to the title on home soil five years ago. And they will look to maintain that run in their last friendly tonight (Thursday) against Switzerland in Zurich.

Then it’s on to Old Trafford, and there is every chance that Arsenal’s England players could come up against clubmates Manuela Zinsberger and Laura Wienroither.

“Austria are going to be a good team and a hard team to break down, and they’ve got the quality, plus a few of our girls,” Mead said.

“We’ve had a few jokes, but yeah, it’ll become quite serious when the game is on.”

• Kick-off on Wednesday is at 8pm with the game live on BBC 1. Then comes Norway in Brighton on Monday, July 11, with the last group match against Northern Ireland in Southampton four days later.

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