England forward Beth Mead has insisted that there will be no final decision on whether she will be selected for the 2023 Women’s World Cup until May as she refuses to give up hope of missing the tournament due to the ACL injury she suffered in November.
Mead picked up the season-ending injury during a WSL game for Arsenal against Manchester United, with ACL recovery typically anywhere from six months to a year or more depending on the specifics.
Fully recovering in time to help the Lionesses conquer the global stage after winning Euro 2022 last summer was always likely to be a race against the clock. What’s more, it seemed to be a race that Mead was losing when England boss Sarina Wiegman admitted only last week that current plans and preparations do not include the 27-year-old, who was named best player at the Euros.
“She is not in our plans right now, but if a miracle happens, we’ll see,” Wiegman said.
Mead has now revealed that she was called for a meeting with the Lionesses coach recently to have what she described a ‘transparent’ chat about the situation, including a friendly reminder that her England career will long continue even if she doesn’t make it to Australia and New Zealand.
“We were on the same page. My motivation in my rehab is to get as close to going to the World Cup as I possibly can. It gives me a target. That is still my target. I put that across to her and she was happy with that,” Mead explained in an interview with The Telegraph.
“I’m doing really well. I’m going to continue working hard and she will revisit it in May. That’s when a decision will be made,” adding that Wiegman’s recent public comments were intended to ‘keep the pressure off’ her recovery efforts.
“It’s not given me a solid no, but she hasn’t said yes either. She is preparing for a World Cup without me, but I could still be picked. And miracles do happen. I’ve certainly not given up. She has not given up on me going either. Not yet. I’ve been given a glimmer of hope. I’m a realistic person. I know it’s going to be extremely hard. But you give me a glimmer of hope and I will take it.”
Mead’s partner and Arsenal teammate Vivianne Miedema appears to have already made a decision about her own World Cup availability after also suffering an ACL injury a month later.
The Netherlands star said twice within weeks of sustaining the injury that she wasn’t expecting to be fit in time for the summer and reiterated that position during a television appaearance on Sunday.
“No hopes. I’m definitely going to miss the World Cup, which is hard,” Miedema explained on live BBC Two coverage of Arsenal’s WSL win over Manchester City. “But I hope to be back for the beginning of next season. That’s my focus right now and I need to be realistic.”
Discussing her recovery, she added, “It’s going good. Really slow, but it’s little steps.”
If Mead ultimately isn’t available for World Cup selection, which still seems the more likely scenario at this moment in time, England do have other options in the right-sided forward role that she has thrived in at international over the past few years.
Chloe Kelly, who scored England’s extra-time winner in the Euro 2022 final, is the obvious choice. The Manchester City star didn’t start any of the games at that tournament but came off the bench in every game and plays the role at club level.
Since Euro 2022, Wiegman has brought new wide forwards into the fold, including Chelsea star Lauren James. The 21-year-old has become a regular fixture for the Lionesses this season and is enjoying a phenomenal campaign in the WSL and Champions League. Although a different type of player, along with Kelly, she is probably the most likely replacement for Mead in the starting XI.
Jess Park, on loan at Everton from Manchester City, and Brighton’s Katie Robinson are two other wingers that have continued to be called up this season. However, both are arguably more creators than goalscorers compared to the likes of Mead, Kelly and James.
Ella Toone is more typically known as a ‘number 10’ but is also capable of playing on the right and could do so in tighter games should Wiegman move ball-playing centre-back Leah Williamson into midfield alongside Keira Walsh and Georgia Stanway for greater protection.