Lionesses handed chance to avenge World Cup heartache
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’.”