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A world away from the past

Female fans tell of excitement as Women’s World Cup kicks off in France

13 June, 2019 — By Catherine Etoe in France

Laura Jacobs and Marla Altschuler at the Stade de Nice ahead of England’s game against Scotland

THERE were more than 13,000 of them. They came from all over the world and the atmosphere around the Stade de Nice was electric.

England and Scotland were about to go head-to-head in their first match of the 2019 Women’s World Cup and, as supporters wearing kilts and ginger wigs drank, sang and posed for photos together with fans bearing three lions on their chests, waving flags of St George in their hands, there was a carnival feel to the whole occasion.

“I’m really excited about women’s football and I want to be part of it and where it is going in the future,” Camden resident Laura Jacobs said as she made her way into the ground.

An Arsenal and Beth Mead fan at her first World Cup, Laura correctly predicted a 2-1 win to England, but she could see the bigger picture too.

“It’s been so lovely to see lots of little girls walking around in football kits,” she added.

“It’s great to see that become normalised and nice to be around other women talking about football. I really want football to be as accessible to my daughter as it is to my son.”

That both teams fielded sides packed with professionals perhaps shows that the women’s game is moving in the right direction.

Indeed, the sport has changed immeasurably even in the 20 years since I wrote my first women’s football report on Arsenal for this newspaper.

More than six million viewers tuned into this match on Sunday evening – the biggest television audience for a women’s game in the UK ever. As it turned out, an England side that included Gunners Mead and Leah Williamson edged it 2-1 thanks to a penalty awarded after a VAR review and a fine goal by former Arsenal star Ellen White.

Scotland, featuring three Arsenal players, were not the 6-0 pushovers that England faced when these two sides met at Euro 2017 and they pulled a goal back through Claire Emslie, with Gunner Lisa Evans supplying the killer pass.

The campaign continues tomorrow (Friday) when England face underdogs Argentina in Le Havre, while Women’s World Cup debutants Scotland take on former champions Japan in Rennes.

“It’s going to be a tough ask, absolutely,” said Evans afterwards.

“But it’s a game we want to win and we’ll go into that game in a positive mindset.”

Having taken bronze in 2015, England have oozed positivity for some time and nothing but three points will do.

The sport in both countries has already benefited from this opening clash between England and Scotland – let’s just hope that they can both go marching on.

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