Women's Euro 2022

Keira Walsh: 'I wouldn't want to play against England's midfield'

Ali Rampling
Walsh praised the performance of England's midfield against Spain's world class midfield trio
Walsh praised the performance of England's midfield against Spain's world class midfield trio / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

How do you put into words what unfolded at the Amex Stadium on Wednesday evening?

Even the traditionally cool, calm and collected Sarina Wiegman went 'a little crazy' by her own admission after watching her England side come from a goal down against Spain with six minutes remaining to earn a Euro 2022 semi-final spot thanks to an extra time Georgia Stanway screamer.

Keira Walsh was in the thick of the action during a memorable night for English football, finding herself in an almost unenviable position as she attempted to stifle Spain's forever shifting, shuffling and probing midfield three.

While the Manchester City midfielder is renowned for her vision and passing range, she excelled defensively on Wednesday evening, coming out on top in countless 50/50 challenges and shielding the back four masterfully with her reading of the game.

In possession, her composure was vital in the build up to England's equaliser, sliding the ball to Stanway on the edge of the box despite being urged to shoot by the crowd, before nipping in to intercept inside the Spain half and again picking out Stanway for the Lionesses' winner.

"It was definitely tough at times," Walsh said of the midfield battle "The way they move the ball and the way they rotate with each other, it's difficult to play against.

"At times you've got a player either side of you so it is about having that concentration and then when we get the ball being able to spot those passes and create chances.

"You know Spain are always going to have a lot of the ball, but for us it was about being patient when we could play our game. I think the feeling in this team is just confidence."

What has been refreshing about England this tournament has been the lack of fear of the opposition. Against both Spain and Norway, despite the wealth of attacking talent that the pair possess, Wiegman did not alter her system or personnel. An unwavering belief in playing to the Lionesses' strengths.

"I think in our midfield we were brilliant," Walsh added. "We were putting tackles in and we were getting up to the ball and Georgia scored a brilliant goal. I think as much as I don't want to play against their midfield, I wouldn't want to play against ours either.

"There's a lot of talk of us not having any really difficult games in the group, but we've come from behind and shown we are a real force to be reckoned with."

The England squad have consistently highlighted the confidence that Wiegman has instilled in each player as key to their progression under the former Netherlands manager. This was epitomised by Stanway trying her luck from 20 yards out and finding the top corner.

"Even the way Sarina is on the side, she's so calm and I think that influences the team massively," Walsh explained. "If you've got a coach who's shouting and running up and down the touchline in those moments it does affect you.

"Georgia's always been confident to shoot it's fair to say, and she's got an unbelievable strike on her - I think Sarina does bring that, she wants people to be confident, have shots, play forward passes. In the team talk it was always on what we could do and the confidence she had in us, and I think that was massive coming up against Spain because they're a top team."

There was concern for Walsh on Wednesday evening when she hobbled off deep into extra time - but she confirmed this was only cramp.

"Do you know what, it went away when I was celebrating at the end to be fair..."