Football Features

“They will have different motivation” – England v Scotland WWC opener is a chance for revenge

By CJ Smith

Published: 17:22, 5 June 2019

Scotland are heading into only their second-ever major tournament in bullish mood, hell-bent on healing the scars of Euro 2017.

Their debut on the big stage in Holland didn’t exactly go to plan, suffering a 6-0 shellacking at the hands of that old foe, England, in their opening game – a result which stands as the heaviest defeat in their short tournament history.

But much has changed since then: Scotland scored their first-ever major tournament goal in a 2-1 defeat to Portugal in the following game, while they registered their first-ever win in the final match, a 1-0 victory over Spain.

And in qualifying for the upcoming World Cup, Shelley Kerr’s side have been imperious, losing just one of their eight games and winning the other seven, scoring 19 goals all the while.

That qualification is something which has Scotland captain and Utah Royals defender Rachel Corsie blushing with pride.

“It’s something I’m obviously extremely proud of,” she told BBC Scotland.

“I just want to make sure I do everything for every single one of the girls to give themselves the best environment and best opportunity to feel part of the squad, to feel comfortable in the squad, to be able to perform at their absolute best.

“I want to be someone who can enable us all to be united and to be together.”

But all pride and impressive qualification records aside, Scotland’s women face arguably the biggest task in their history in the opening game, once again facing up to England.

In the face of an adversary which gave them such a beating last time, it would be understandable if Scotland were to be feeling nervous ahead of Sunday’s clash. But a narrow 1-0 defeat to three-time world champions USA and a memorable 1-0 win over Brazil – who are ranked 10th in the world and have South America on lockdown – has Corsie and her teammates brimming with confidence, even if she does think the USA still hold an edge over the rest.

“The gap is closing now between the very top teams and the rest, but I still think the US have something about them in the big competitions and the big games,” she said. “There is an aspect of their character that sets them apart from anybody else.

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“A big part of it comes from their success and the legacy that has gone before them, but it’s not just that — they still have some unbelievably good players.”

For Corsie’s claim about a closing gap to be taken seriously, Scotland must perform better in their opening match against England than they did in Euro 2017. But the 29-year-old insists she travels to France with a much better group of players than she went to the Netherlands with two years ago, one that will not roll over so easily.

“Scotland are our first Group D opponents in Nice on Sunday and, although it is a ‘derby’, we are treating it as no different to any other match. They will have different motivation, though, I’m sure. For a lot of their players, our 6-0 victory over them in the opening group match of Euro 2017 might still be in their heads.”

England’s Lucy Bronze on facing Scotland in their 2019 World Cup opener.

“We have a better squad, without a doubt, than we did in 2017,” Corsie added. “We’ve grown in confidence against teams in the top ten bracket. If nothing else we know that physically we can compete a lot better, which enables us to have more belief and try to play a bit more.”

Manchester City’s Caroline Weir and Chelsea’s Erin Cuthbert – who scored against all-conquering Lyon in this season’s Uefa Women’s Champions League – are living proof of a side now flush with talent.

England will underestimate this opening fixture at their own peril and if the team ranked third in the world were to slip up against their rivals – currently sitting 20th in the world rankings – Scotland’s developing squad truly will announce themselves on the world stage at last.