Triumphant return as Fran Kirby inspires England against Mexico
Four years after quitting soccer because of severe depression, Fran Kirby scored the opener that kept England’s hopes alive in a 2-1 win over Mexico at the Women’s World Cup.
Kirby, 21, scored in her first start at a major tournament after leaving the sport following depression triggered by her mother’s sudden death.
The victory kept England’s hopes of advancing to the knockout rounds in Canada alive after losing their opening match to France 1-0, and sparked delighted celebrations among the England team.
Kirby, dubbed “Mini Messi” by coach Mark Sampson, found the net after 71 minutes, shortly after Karen Carney, who also scored with a late header, was introduced in front of the 13,000- person crowd at Moncton.
“It’s pretty incredible to be labeled after such a great footballer,” Kirby said of Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.
The win puts England equal on three points with France, who were beaten 2-0 by Colombia earlier Saturday, with the South Americans leading Group F on four points. Mexico have one point.
Kirby, who plays for her hometown team Reading, was the only player selected from the secondtier of the English Women’s Super League for the World Cup.
She thanked the England coach for believing in her.
“It’s really great for me that he has that much faith in me as a player, and to put his trust in me to give me my first start is absolutely incredible,” Kirby said.
“And to get the goal, just to be able to repay Mark and the girls for how well they’ve treated me coming into the group.
“This time last year I probably wasn’t even in and around it,” she said of the team.
“When I look back it was a difficult period for me and my family, but we pulled through it all together.
“It just motivates me now more than anything. It’s something that I’ve managed to get over and I use it as motivation.”
England play Colombia Wednesday in their final group game. The two top teams in each group and the four best thirdplace finishers advance to the knockout round.
Meanwhile, England’s 119-time capped captain Casey Stoney was made an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday honors announced on Friday.