Lionesses handed chance to avenge World Cup heartache

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Katie Why­att in Paris

Eng­land will look to heal old wounds and re­new long-stand­ing ri­val­ries at the World Cup in France next sum­mer af­ter be­ing matched with Ja­pan, Scot­land and Ar­gentina in yes­ter­day’s draw.

Phil Neville’s side be­gin their cam­paign against Scot­land in Nice on Sun­day, June 9, be­fore head­ing to Le Havre to face Ar­gentina, ar­guably one of the tour­na­ment’s weak­est and most un­der­funded sides, the fol­low­ing Fri­day.

They then re­turn to Nice to con­clude their Group D fix­tures against Ja­pan, run­ners-up at the 2015 World Cup in Canada, where they de­feated Eng­land in the semi-fi­nal. The game against Scot­land means the Eng­land women’s and men’s teams will play on the same day as Gareth South­gate’s side will be in­volved in ei­ther the Na­tions League fi­nal or third-place play-off in Por­tu­gal.

“Ev­ery game has a dif­fer­ent mean­ing,” Neville said. “In the third game, Ja­pan, we’re play­ing a team that will prob­a­bly have their sights set on win­ning the World Cup. Eng­land-Ar­gentina has a spe­cial his­tor­i­cal mean­ing for us, and then there’s the first game against Scot­land. If we’re go­ing to go to a World Cup you want the big­gest and best oc­ca­sions. The Scot­land game, for the whole of the UK, is a fan­tas­tic fix­ture to cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion.”

Shel­ley Kerr’s side, well backed by their own fed­er­a­tion, boast a host of big-name WSL play­ers, in­clud­ing Arse­nal’s Kim Lit­tle and Lisa Evans. In qual- ify­ing for their first World Cup, they are barely recog­nis­able from the side Eng­land beat 6-0 at Euro 2017.

Asked if his side could win the World Cup, Neville said: “Yes. If I stood here now and said we want to go to the World Cup and win a bronze medal, I would have 28 play­ers tex­ting me, say­ing, ‘You’re not the right man­ager for us’.”

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