Millie Bright fit for England’s World Cup opener

BRISBANE, Australia — Millie Bright is fit to lead England into their Women’s World Cup opener against Haiti on Saturday and admits the situation the players were put in over bonus discussions was far from ideal.

Bright was a selection doubt heading into the competition after suffering a knee injury in March, but with England already without Leah Williamson in defence, Bright’s return to full fitness will be a huge boost as they prepare to start the tournament in Brisbane this weekend.

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Bright will captain England in the absence of Williamson.

“I think when you are surrounded by the best people, I was very confident in my recovery and I have been given absolutely everything that I needed to be in this position that I am in,” Bright said.

“I am grateful that I am able to play. I am super excited to be here.”

When England manager Sarina Wiegman was asked whether Bright was 100% fit, she said: “Absolutely, yes. We are happy. This was the plan. The plan worked, so Millie is ready to play.”

Bright said she took her recovery “day by day.”

“I think it’s important to be in the moment and present, and not look too far ahead, and I think by doing that I kind of removed all the pressure of being fit almost, so day-by-day my head was in that place that day, but I’m always confident that I do absolutely everything that I can for the team, and to put myself in the best position, so I knew I’d tick all the boxes in terms of my recovery,” Bright said.

“Obviously you mentioned players not being here but unfortunately injuries are part of football and we have to look forward and move forward, and I think we’ve got an amazing group of players and staff and everyone has stepped up. We’re raring to go.”

The build-up to England’s opener has included the team dealing with off-field issues. The team issued a joint statement on Tuesday evening announcing they were “disappointed” that no resolution had been found with the FA over discussions concerning bonuses and commercial structures.

Bright was asked on Friday whether it was disappointing these discussions had continued right up to the week prior to their World Cup opener.

“Obviously, it’s not a situation everyone wants to be in,” Bright said. “But I think as players we’re not just programmed to play football, sometimes we have to have these conversations. But we have a very professional group and football is always at the front of everything.

“Obviously, I’m aware that everyone’s seen the statement. So as players now, with our heads on the game — they always have been on the game — everything is on hold with those sorts of questions. We will address the situation at a later date. But for now, it’s all about the tournament.”

There was also further uncertainty leading into the World Cup over when Wiegman would get access to her players due to late running discussions between the clubs and the FA over when the squad would come into camp. But Wiegman has zero concerns any of this will act as a distraction to the group.

“When we go on the pitch, we are on the pitch and everyone is aligned and everyone is focused on football,” Wiegman said. “And I haven’t seen any other behaviours. So yes, we are ready. We have said all the time we want to be ready on July 22, and I think we are.

“We have had our last training session and we are ready to go tomorrow. Of course we have a whole team behind us to analyse the opponents, so I think we know everything we need to know about Haiti. Yes, we have never played them and we have to experience that. But we are very well prepared and I don’t think there is any stone unturned in preparation for this game.”

Bright also said it was a collective decision over which captain’s armband she’d wear through the tournament. FIFA gave the nations the choice of wearing a different one of the eight sanctioned armbands in each round of the tournament, or wearing one the whole way through with each raising awareness over different social issues.

Bright will wear the “Unite for Inclusion” armband on Saturday. They then plan to wear the “Unite for Indigenous People” armband for their second pool stage match against Denmark and then “Unite for Gender Equality” for their match with China in Adelaide.

“Everything that we made a decision on we did as a team,” Bright said. “For us, the decision with the armbands took a while and we thought long and hard. As a collective we stuck with what FIFA proposed. We will be wearing the different armbands. We thought it was important to shed a light on all the causes that we feel strongly about as a team.”

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