Midfield maestro Kim Little is savouring every moment of her maiden World Cup experience ahead of Scotland’s second Group D game against Japan tomorrow.
And it will be a familiar rival that she faces in Rennes, with the Arsenal star making the first of her 134 caps against Japan when she was just 16.
Scotland lost their first women’s World Cup game to England 2-1 in Nice but a stalemate between Japan and Argentina means that victory over the 2011 champions at the Roazhon Park could catapult the Scots up to second in the group.
Little was absent with injury when Scotland suffered a humiliating 6-0 defeat to England in their Euro 2017 opener but, two years on, pride is the overriding emotion despite the latest defeat by the Lionesses.
“The feeling of appreciation and gratitude when I was lining up and being able to play football on this stage was immense – I was taking in the occasion and enjoying it,” said Little of Scotland’s World Cup debut.
“The fans have been growing in numbers over the last few days so we obviously appreciate their support. I think I took a bit of time to get into the game but I am happy with my second-half performance. I got into a good amount of space and made some opportunities. We flattened out in the midfield a little bit in the second half to create less space for England to pick up the ball and make it easier for myself and Caroline [Weir] to pick up the ball but we need a bit more belief. We know our own capabilities but England are a great team and they will always try to stop us as much as possible – they are third in the world for a reason so you have to give them respect.”
Little has won trophies in Scotland, England, USA and Australia and is the most experienced of Shelley Kerr’s outfield players in France, scoring 53 goals since first appearing against Japan more than a decade ago. The Arsenal captain has been critical of the way Scotland responded after falling behind to an early Nikita Parris penalty at the Allianz Riviera stadium and admitted they will need to show more resilience if they wish to get a positive result in their second group game. There were, however, positives to take from Claire Emslie’s calm finish but the historic goal – Scotland’s first at a women’s World Cup – proved only to be a consolation.
“When they scored the first goal we naturally dropped off under the pressure of going 1-0 down and we need to maybe learn from that and be a bit more on the front foot if it happens again,” Little added. “We play with and against a lot of their players so we knew what they are capable of and what we are capable of in comparison to them but perhaps they have a little bit more experience than us. We have natural ability in our team and it was eventually going to come through at some point.”
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