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US coach praises players for stand against sexual abuse in football

US manager Vlatko Andonovski said the players “did an incredible” job of using the women’s international between the world champions and Euro 2022 winners England as a platform to fight against sexual violence.

England beat the US 2-1 in Friday’s friendly at Wembley with a Lauren Hemp goal and a penalty from Georgia Stanway either side of a Sophia Smith strike.

But the build-up to the match in London was overshadowed by the damning revelations in a report detailing “systemic” sexual abuse and misconduct in the US domestic game.

The report by former US attorney general Sally Yates included interviews with more than 200 National Women’s Soccer League players and detailed patterns of abuse from team coaches, including manipulation and tirades.

A number of senior officials have since lost their jobs or stepped down from their roles.

Players from both teams at Wembley wore teal-coloured armbands as a show of solidarity with victims of sexual abuse, gathering behind a banner before kick-off that said “Protect the Players”.

The famous arch at England’s national stadium was also lit up in teal.

“It was a very special moment when the players got together and had the banner,” said Andonovski. “It gave me goosebumps, and to see the support from the fans as they applauded that moment, I thought it was incredible.

“It was a statement that we have to stop sexual violence. The players did an incredible job of using this game as a platform to fight against it.”

England boss Sarina Wiegman said the players had sent a strong message.

“It was very important,” she said. “We all wanted to be very supportive because it is very horrible that these situations occur. 

“It should stop. People are speaking up and I think that is very strong, and we need to make sure this is going to change and not happen again.”

Despite the win against the world champions, Wiegman stressed England would only be able to lay claim to being the best team on the planet once they had lifted the World Cup.

England are now 23 matches undefeated under Wiegman, winning 21 of those, as they prepare for next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“You are the best team in the world when you have won the World Cup,” said Wiegman, whose team became European champions in July. “We didn’t.

“I think we’re in a very good place, but as I say all the time, it’s so close, there are so many good countries.

“We’ve done really well, but we have to keep doing that, keep working hard and executing our plans.”

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