Chelsea and England midfielder Fran Kirby has been ruled out of the upcoming World Cup due to a knee problem that requires surgery. The 29-year-old’s club announced on Tuesday that she was expected to be out for a “significant period”. Kirby later confirmed on social media that her World Cup ambitions were over, expressing her disappointment. This is the latest injury setback for England boss Sarina Wiegman, who has also lost captain Leah Williamson due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Kirby sustained the injury in the League Cup semi-final against West Ham in February. Arsenal forward Beth Mead, who finished top scorer last summer, is also expected to miss the World Cup due to an ACL injury, while Chelsea defender Millie Bright is continuing to recover from a knee injury she sustained in March. The World Cup begins on 20 July.
BBC Sport’s Emma Sanders commented that this latest injury blow to one of England’s key players is arguably the most significant. Kirby is one of the country’s most gifted footballers and has often been described by team-mates and coaches as a player who can single-handedly win matches. She started every match at Euro 2022, providing a creative spark and intricate attacking build-up play which proved crucial en route to victory. Her England understudy Ella Toone will be a strong replacement at the World Cup but Kirby’s qualities will no doubt be a major loss. It is also a huge blow for Chelsea as they continue their quest to win a fourth successive Women’s Super League title and the FA Cup. Having been plagued by injury and illness throughout her career, it is a sad ending to Kirby’s season and the World Cup this summer will be worse for her absence.