England defender Alex Greenwood is adamant next summer’s World Cup is far from the forefront of her mind, despite the tournament kicking off in under eight months.
The Manchester City full-back was among the Lionesses who hoisted the Euro 2022 trophy at Wembley and she is keen to get her hands on more silverware, but for now remains firmly focused on domestic trophies.
Fourth-placed City next face second-placed United in Sunday’s much-anticipated Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium, with over 40,000 tickets already sold. It is a vital clash between the sides, who are separated by just three points and vying for both the Women’s Super League title and one of three Champions League places next season.
“Honestly, (I’m) not (thinking about it) at all,” Greenwood told the PA news agency when asked about the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
“Of course it’s there. It’s in the back of your mind. The derby is much much closer than the World Cup is. I’ll always be foolish to look that far ahead, because there’s so much football to be played and so much to achieve in that space of time.
“Of course the summer is going to be incredible for so many reasons. It’s a World Cup. It’s the best tournament you can play in as an international. It’s there in the thought process somewhere, but not quite at the forefront just yet.”
Sunday’s derby, however, is front and centre for Greenwood and her City team-mates, whose season got off to a rocky start with losses to Aston Villa and champions Chelsea.
Some speculated the results had something to do with a high-profile player exodus over the summer, including the departures of England’s Keira Walsh and Lucy Bronze to Barcelona, the double retirements of Lionesses Ellen White and newly crowned ‘I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!’ winner Jill Scott, and Olympic champion Janine Beckie’s defection back to the United States-based National Women’s Soccer League.
But the Continental Cup holders have found their form in recent weeks with an attack led by Jamaica captain Bunny Shaw, who has scored eight times in as many WSL appearances this term, just one goal away from matching her 2021-22 total.
The Etihad is one of several Premier League stadia to host WSL matches this season as the league banks on the post-Euros interest to pack marquee venues.
So far it has worked, with Arsenal and Tottenham’s September north London derby at the Emirates breaking the WSL attendance record with 47,367 spectators, and Chelsea’s November meeting with Spurs at Stamford Bridge last month attracting 38,350.
That week-eight match, just a third of the way through the 22-game season, pushed the WSL’s attendance past the 250,489 who watched the women’s top flight throughout its entire last campaign.
Greenwood does not necessarily believe the boost in big venues and corresponding audiences will help the current Lionesses as they prepare to face the World Cup cauldron, aiming for better than their best-ever bronze-medal finish in 2015.
The real beneficiaries, reckons the 29-year-old, are exciting young talents who have not yet earned senior caps.
The sentiment might even extend as far as City and England team-mate Esme Morgan, 22, who was named in Sarina Wiegman’s first Lionesses squad in September 2021, but missed out on the historic summer after sustaining a lower-leg fracture just days later, forcing a near 12-month absence from action.
Morgan finally made her senior England debut in the Lionesses’ October friendly against the Czech Republic at Brighton’s Amex Stadium, four days after warming the bench against USA at Wembley.
Greenwood said: “The experience they’ll take from (the big-stadium matches) moving forward is really massive and crucial for their learning. When they take that next step in their international senior career, then it will be normal to play in big stadiums in front of big crowds.
“As a senior international it’s probably a bit more normal, but for the girls who haven’t yet experienced that, I think those moments are really important.”