Women's World Cup: England center-backs doubtful for quarterfinals

Steph Houghton is facing a race to recover from an ankle injury while Mille Bright is sick after picking up a “virus that’s going a little bit through the camp.”

Steph Houghton and Millie Bright could be a big miss for England against Norway.   -  Getty Images

England centre-backs Steph Houghton and Millie Bright are both "major doubts" for the Women's World Cup quarterfinal against Norway, head coach Phil Neville has revealed.

Captain Houghton was the victim of an awful tackle from Alexandra Takounda late in the ill-tempered last-16 clash with Cameroon, subsequently skipping her post-match media duties to immediately receive treatment.

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The Manchester City skipper's status for the Norway match on Thursday remains uncertain and the Lionesses are also set to be without defensive partner Bright, who is suffering from a virus.

"Both are major doubts - Steph because of the tackle," Neville told a pre-match news conference. "We're hoping she takes part in some of the training today. That's the key for Steph.

"Millie has got a virus that's going a little bit through the camp. She's probably more of a doubt than Steph, so we're going to give them right until the last minute to be fit."

But Neville has no qualms about bringing in Leah Williamson and Abbie McManus, explaining that his rotation of the squad has paid off.

"You guys [the media] have had an obsession with my rotation for the last 18 months," he said. "What I would say is the players that we've played are for moments like this.

"We can just say no problem, Steph, Millie, whoever, we can just bring two people in who know the system, know the style and have got utter belief and confidence in each other. It's a seamless transition.

"You plan for these moments. I said six months ago, 'You don't want to get to the quarterfinal of a World Cup and throw a young kid in or someone we haven't tested, haven't tried, who doesn't know our system'. There's been a plan behind it for moments like this. I'm totally relaxed.

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"When I got into management, I said from day one, only worry about those that can get on the bus - and those that can get on the bus are the fit ones. Unfortunately, in situations, you're going to have injuries and it's opportunities for others.

"I'd 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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