Women’s World Cup: England play Scotland in their opening match

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England manager Phil Neville is “confident” striker Toni Duggan and defender Demi Stokes will be fit for Sunday’s Women’s World Cup opener against Scotland in Nice.

Barcelona striker Duggan only took part in “light training” on Saturday because of a thigh injury, while Stokes has been managing a knee problem.

“We’ll make a decision on Sunday but I’m confident,” said Neville.

Scotland have a fully-fit 23-strong squad to choose from.

England finished third at the 2015 World Cup in Canada, while their Group D opponents, ranked 20th in the world, are making their debut in the finals.

Scotland were beaten 6-0 by England in their last meeting at a major tournament, in the group stages at Euro 2017, prior to Shelley Kerr taking over as manager.

And they have shown a huge improvement under the former international defender, going unbeaten in their last five games, and she said they are targeting the knockout stages.

Asked if England were under pressure for this game, Kerr said “100%”.

She added: “There are so many variables that can happen but there’s no doubt there’s certainly more pressure on England.

“Obviously it’s our first World Cup, and we are the first Scottish team to reach a World Cup in two decades. Our journey so far has been fantastic. They’re a formidable England team and for Phil Neville, part of the reason he took the job was the win the World Cup.”

  • Pressure is on England in opener – Scotland boss Kerr

‘Biggest thing in my life’ – Neville on first World Cup

It is the first time England head coach Neville has managed at a major tournament and his team arrive as one of the favourites, along with hosts France, two-time winners Germany and holders USA.

The former Three Lions defender said: “The World Cup was what made me fall in love with football.

“I suppose, coming to a World Cup as manager, you have to remove yourself from that, and have ice in your veins. That’s what I’ve tried to do but it’s the biggest thing in my life, it’s the pinnacle for a player or a manager and I’m no different.

“The first game is always the most difficult because of the occasion, and the amount of time you spend preparing.

“On Sunday we will have the most difficult first game of all teams in competition because they are our rivals, the respect we have for them and the players that know each other.

“Sunday is about calmness, I want to see my team play with freedom. They have to play with a smile on their faces, and they have to be fresh.”

Sunday’s match is taking place at the 35,000-capacity Allianz Riviera, where England’s men famously lost 2-1 against Iceland at Euro 2016.

The latest information from Fifa suggests 16,000 tickets have been sold.

“Walking out in the stadium, that’s the time when I miss being a player,” admitted Kerr. “It doesn’t matter how long since you’ve been retired.

“It’s a fantastic stadium and I can’t wait. The whole country is behind us. The support we’ve had will continue throughout the tournament.”

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