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England Women’s World Cup camp hit by ‘virus’ as Millie Bright joins Steph Houghton as injury doubt

Captain Houghton and Bright could be absent from Norway quarter-final

Mark Critchley
Wednesday 26 June 2019 11:32 BST
Women’s World Cup in numbers

England’s first-choice centre-back pairing, Steph Houghton and Millie Bright, are both doubtful for Thursday’s Women’s World Cup quarter-final against Norway after a virus hit the camp.

Captain Houghton’s fitness was always in question after she was hurt in a challenge by Cameroon’s Alexandra Takounda during the final stages of Sunday’s ill-tempered last-16 win.

But her defensive partner Bright is suffering from an illness, which head coach Phil Neville said has also affected other members of England’s travelling party.

“Both major doubts,” Neville revealed. “Steph because of the tackle. We’re hoping she takes part in the training today, that’s the key for Steph.

“Millie has a virus that’s going through the camp. She’s more of a doubt. It’s a simple virus. Sickness, I suppose. She’s picked it up in the last couple of days. She’s in her room, recovering at this moment in time.

Lucy Bronze missed training on Tuesday with an illness, though Neville said she would be available to play against Norway and is not taking extra precautions to prevent the ‘virus’ in question from spreading.

“You guys are travelling around together, we’re travelling around together. You’re going to pick up bugs along the way.

“Touchwood, we’ve been lucky, we’ve had no injuries or illnesses. It’s par for the course, it happens in life. [Bright] is more than likely going to be fit but at this moment in time, she is a doubt.”

If both Houghton and Bright are absent, Neville is likely to turn to Abbie McManus and Leah Williamson at the heart of his defence.

Neville’s policy of heavily rotating his players has been questioned in the past, though the England head coach believes it will allow them to cope better with injury and illness.

“It’s for moments like this where we can say: ‘No problem’. We bring two people who know the system and style. It’s a seamless transition.

“We don’t want to get to the quarter-finals of the World Cup and throw a young kid in, or someone who’s untested and doesn’t know the system.

“When I got into management, I said only worry about those who can get on the bus. Unfortunately, you’re going to have injuries. I put my life on Leah Williamson and Abbie McManus if they’re called upon to be the best two players on the pitch.”

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