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Leah Williamson ACL tear puts damper on England’s World Cup hopes

Leah Williamson left Arsenal's Women's Super League match Wednesday with a knee injury. (Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

England captain Leah Williamson will miss this summer’s World Cup after rupturing the ACL in her right knee in Arsenal’s match against Manchester United on Wednesday.

The club confirmed the news Thursday.

“Leah will now begin a period of rehabilitation and is set for an extended spell on the sidelines. She will undergo surgery in due course,” the team said in a statement.

“Everyone at Arsenal will be supporting Leah closely throughout the journey ahead and we would ask that her privacy is respected at this time.”

In a statement, Williamson said that while she has “made my peace with it” on the night that it happened, she would “need some quiet” to let the situation sink in.

“Unfortunately, the World Cup and Champions League dream is over for me and everyone will think that’s the main focus, but it’s the day to day of what I’m about to go through that is the most draining of my thoughts,” she wrote. “Ultimately, I think it’s just my time. In the past couple of years alone I have watched teammates beat serious illnesses and adversity with the biggest smiles on their faces.

“I haven’t had a day since last October when I’ve walked on to the pitch without a physical or mental question mark over me, and that’s professional sports. So now I have to listen to my body, give it what it needs and if everything happens for a reason, then we’ll see what road this turn sends me down.”

Williamson fell to the ground in the 12th minute of the 1-0 loss after appearing to catch her studs on the turf. She immediately signaled to the bench for treatment.

While she was able to walk off the pitch on her own, she did have to be helped down the tunnel to the locker room.

After the match, Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall called out the packed calendar and the field conditions as possible contributing factors.

“I think it’s going to continue here with the schedule we have and pitches like that, players are going to get injured,” he said. “That is something that we all need to improve on – the facilities where we play, so we can keep the players on the pitch.”

Williamson isn’t the first Arsenal player to go down with an injury this season. Both Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead are out with ACL injuries and likely are out of the World Cup, the former for the Netherlands and the latter for England. Kim Little is also out with a hamstring injury.

Arsenal is in the running for the Women’s Super League title and the Champions League title, but the growing injury list presents a problem for the club.

“Nobody wanted to see that,” Manchester United manager Marc Skinner said of Williamson’s injury. “I’ve just seen her inside, she seemed in really high spirits. We obviously wish it’s something minor and just a precaution. We wish her all the best. We all want to see her lead the Lionesses in the summer.”

With the severity of the injury revealed, though, Williamson will be relegated to supporting the national team from the sidelines. The 26-year-old defender played an integral role in leading the team to its first Euros title last July.

England saw its 30-match unbeaten streak snapped in a friendly against Australia earlier this month, but the Lionesses remain among the favorites to win this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Without Williamson, though, their odds likely will take a hit.