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England captain Steph Houghton ruled out of World Cup qualifiers

:Headline: England captain Steph Houghton ruled out of World Cup qualifiers:
Leah Williamson will skipper the side against North Macedonia on Friday.
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England captain Steph Houghton has withdrawn from the squad for the World Cup qualifiers against North Macedonia and Luxembourg due to an ankle injury.

The Football Association announced Houghton had sustained the problem during the Lionesses' final training session prior to Friday's clash with North Macedonia at Southampton's St Mary's Stadium, and was returning to Manchester City for further assessment.

Arsenal's Leah Williamson, Houghton's fellow defender, will now skipper England in Friday's contest.

England boss Sarina Wiegman said in a statement from the FA: "First and foremost we would like to wish Steph a speedy recovery and hope to see her back fit soon.

"This is also an exciting opportunity for Leah Williamson to wear the captain's armband at senior level for the first time and I look forward to seeing her in action.

"We hope to see as many of our fans as possible at this evening's match as we get our World Cup campaign underway."

After hosting North Macedonia in their first game under Wiegman – and first in front of fans since 2019 – England then take on Luxembourg away next Tuesday.

Houghton's withdrawal from the squad follows that earlier in the week of her Manchester City team-mate Esme Morgan, who suffered a broken leg against Tottenham last Sunday.

England were already without the City quartet of Ellie Roebuck, Keira Walsh, Lucy Bronze and Chloe Kelly due to injury.

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