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Wiegman remains coy on plans for Belgium return fixture after positive England win

Wiegman saw her side keep a clean sheet for the first time since they played in the round of 16 at the World Cup but they missed the finishing touches in front of goal
Wiegman saw her side keep a clean sheet for the first time since they played in the round of 16 at the World Cup but they missed the finishing touches in front of goal (REUTERS)

All it took were two words from Sarina Wiegman to remind everyone she is not one to give anything away, writes Sportsbeat's Milly McEvoy.

The England manager’s first sentence in response to whether she will make any changes when they next face Belgium on Tuesday was just ‘Let’s see’.

The Lionesses will play the Belgian Red Flames for a second time in five days having won 1-0 on Friday evening in Leicester.

“We will need to wait and see how players come out of this game,” she said.

“We play to win. These games are really tough and tight. We aren’t going to sub because we want to sub people on.

“We start with the team that helps us to go and achieve a win and then the subs come in if we think we need more energy or something else in a certain area."

Despite keeping her cards close to her chest, Wiegman celebrated uncharacteristically emphatically when Lauren Hemp scored what proved to be the winner early on.

The smell and mist of the pre-match pyrotechnics had barely cleared before Hemp lashed home in the 13th minute with England already well on top.

Their dominance continued throughout and notwithstanding some nervy moments and two exceptional saves from Mary Earps, the Lionesses looked more comfortable than they have in a long time.

Their focus now will be on building consistency as they go in search of Olympic qualification on behalf of Team GB, with only the two Nations League finalists guaranteed a spot at Paris 2024.

The Lionesses currently sit behind the Netherlands on goal difference with the two meeting in their final Group A1 game in December.

England dominated possession at the King Power Stadium but could not make their pressure pay having to settle for a 1-0 scoreline.

While Wiegman expressed a desire for a more clinical performance in front of goal on Tuesday, she is aware a repeat of the Lionesses’ 6-1 win over the same opponents in February is unlikely.

She added: “I think expectations are high [for us to score lots of goals]. Of course, we want to score more goals and we could have scored more than we did.

“The opponents we had in [World Cup and Euros] qualification compared to now in the Nations League, it is more competitive, defensively the opponents are better.

“If we win 5-0, we will be really happy, but I don’t think we will see those results.”

Alongside their much-improved performance, another positive for England was a first clean sheet since their nervy 0-0 draw with Nigeria in the round of 16 at the Women’s World Cup.

But perhaps the greatest moment of the game was the return of Fran Kirby, who made her first England appearance in over a year as she replaced Ella Toone midway through the second half.

Kirby’s dynamism and calmness under pressure was lacking at both the World Cup and England’s two previous Nations League fixtures and her return to a Lionesses shirt brought joy on and off the pitch as she was greeted with huge cheers.

“It is nice for players that have been out for a long time to come back,” Wiegman said. “It was already good to see her play for Chelsea and she performed well tonight.

“When she came on the pitch she brought what we thought she would bring, she was calm on the ball, it was nice to see.”