Sarina Wiegman: How the Dutchwoman’s winning formula has shaped England’s Lionesses

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Sarina Wiegman created European champions in under 12 months – a year down the line, can the same winning formula triumph at this summer’s World Cup? Sky Sports explores how the Dutchwoman’s style gives England their edge
“I don’t think we’re losing momentum; I think it’s building,” Sarina Wiegman said after suffering her first defeat as England manager back in April, 30 games in, as if she’d handpicked the moment.

The Lionesses’ incredible unbeaten run was always going to end, but on Wiegman’s terms. In a fixture where the outcome didn’t matter, but the learning experience was invaluable.
On an occasion which fans would still enjoy, despite the result, because the masterplan was at work and setbacks, if managed correctly, make great teams greater.
If the Lionesses friendly loss to Australia precedes a momentous World Cup round of 16 win (that is the earliest England can meet the tournament co-hosts this summer), many will refer to Wiegman’s comments four months prior. “She was right,” they will say. Momentum needs to peak within a tournament cycle, not months before it.

The Dutchwomen’s process is underpinned by pragmatism and detail. At times, she comes across as an austere, stern figure but her business-like manner is what has transformed England from a team burdened by false dawns and nearly-not-quite moments into a team of champions.
Wiegman’s approach, post-European glory, is governed by the same principles of consistency and cohesion that have already secured unprecedented success. Except now the goalposts have shifted. The spotlight brighter. The weight of expectation heavier.

Never before had the same coach overseen back-to-back continental titles with different nations – it takes a special character to do so. But the world stage is new territory, unchartered waters, and an even greater level of competition.
There were 333 days between Wiegman’s official unveiling and England’s trophy triumph the following year. The rise was steep and sudden. England were hosting the party, yet designs on the title were hopeful not expectant. This next phase is, however, altogether different – the time to bask in European glow has passed.

England pictured in open training at the Sunshine Coast Stadium in Queensland
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England pictured in open training at the Sunshine Coast Stadium in Queensland
Eyes are locked on England’s trajectory. Not least because the ‘trauma’, as Wiegman describes it, has lifted. For 56 years the nation’s trophy cabinet lay bare – compounded in some way by England men’s close shave with European silverware the year prior.

Now the burden has lessened, what, if anything, has changed?

Interestingly, Wiegman’s ‘bad cop’ routine softened in the days following 2022’s Euros win. The manager joked about how English people drink too much, her tone cheerful and demure.

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND – JULY 01: Sarina Wiegman, England Manager on the bench during the Women's International Friendly match between England and Portugal at Stadium MK on July 01, 2023 in Milton Keynes, England. (Photo by Richard Sellers/Sportsphoto/Allstar via Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***Sarina Wiegman
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Sarina Wiegman takes notes as England take on Portugal in a pre-World Cup friendly
“When you have these accomplishments it’s good to have a party,” she remarked as England’s history-makers paraded their winners’ medals at a special event in Trafalgar Square, the euphoria still etched on some tired-looking faces from a night of celebrations at the Lensbury Hotel.

But in the back of Wiegman’s mind new plans were surfacing. Cogs were turning. Winning simply served to accelerate the rush for more.

When the Dutch coach led her native Netherlands to European glory in 2017, it was followed by a World Cup final appearance two years later. There is precedent. But on that occasion Wiegman’s side fell at the finish line, beaten comprehensively by the USA in France. That failure will, no doubt, inform and guide Wiegman’s approach this time around.

England
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England’s squad and staff circle around manager Sarina Wiegman after drawing 0-0 with Portugal
History is a great teacher and the 53-year-old is a model student. “Of course, we’re being analysed very well,” she acknowledged after tasting defeat to Australia. And that increased attention, as a result of the achievements of last summer, is now England’s greatest threat.

Time to go up a gear.

Preparation at St George’s Park has been painstaking, including the employment of a chrono coach who specialises in jet lag and fatigue management, trialing the use of light-filtering glasses, and gradually adapting sleep patterns to mimic Australian time zones.

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