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Women's World Cup

'She's the best in the world' - Scotland's Kim Little looking to make up for lost time against England

12:00 PM GMT+4 09/06/2019
Kim Little Arsenal 2018-19
The Arsenal playmaker missed the 2017 European Championship through injury, but will be looking to make herself known in France this summer

There are many differences between the Scotland team that head into the 2019 Women’s World Cup and the Scotland team that went into the 2017 European Championship.

This time round, the team have major tournament experience, a new manager in Shelley Kerr and there are a total of seven changes in personnel between this squad and the one that went to the Netherlands.

But not one of those differences are more crucial than that of Kim Little who, after missing the Euros with a devastating cruciate ligament rupture, heads into this World Cup with unfinished business.

The creative midfielder had to watch from the sidelines as her Scotland side were hammered 6-0 by England in the group stage two years ago, and so nothing would be sweeter for her than exacting revenge with her team-mates in Nice tonight.

But her presence at this World Cup is more than just a victory for the Lionesses’ Group D rivals; it’s a victory for football fans across the globe.

“Kim Little is the most talented player I have ever played with,” Hope Solo, the former USA goalkeeper who has won everything there is to win in the game, told The Times.

“She is great at everything. Her passing and vision and technical skill are, I believe, the best in the world.”

The individual awards speak for themselves. FA Women’s Player of the Year in 2010, PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year in 2013, NWSL MVP in 2014, named in the NWSL Best XI in 2014 and 2015, and named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2016 – Solo is certainly not on her own with her opinion.

“Having Kim Little for this tournament is a huge boost obviously,” Rachel Corsie said in Saturday’s pre-match press conference.

“But more so, as one of Kim’s best friends, I think it’s great just to be able to watch her know that she’s going to be here on a huge stage and be able to perform and hopefully enjoy it.

“I missed her at the Euros on a personal note, we missed her at the Euros as a team on the field and it’s great to have her for this tournament.”

Little hasn’t been much more fortunate with injuries this year, breaking her leg back in October and missing four months of the season.

However, it will not prevent her from finally competing where she belongs; among the world’s best, in a World Cup.

Despite that setback, Little’s stats this season remain incredibly impressive and support Solo’s opinion on her ability.

With eight goals and six assists in 14 appearances, the 28-year-old was directly involved in a goal every 87 minutes for Arsenal, and collected both FA Women’s Super League and an FAWSL Cup winners’ medals to show for her efforts.

Moreover, with England’s defensive weaknesses having been exploited by lowly New Zealand in the build-up to this tournament, she could be a real threat to them on Sunday.

She knows the Lionesses well, having spent many of her years playing against them at club level, and Scotland will have no doubt noted particular areas to exploit in the ranks of their British rivals.

Testing the goalkeeper is one of those tips likely to be on Shelley Kerr’s list. None of England’s travelling shot-stoppers are playing regular football for their clubs and therefore have the potential to show rust – as Carly Telford did when she fumbled Rosie White’s shot, allowing Sarah Gregorius to score the only goal in the 1-0 loss to New Zealand that Phil Neville’s side suffered in their last outing.

With Lucy Bronze playing for Lyon in a league where she is rarely tested defensively, while Alex Greenwood has been competing in the second tier of women’s football, questions have been raised of England’s defensive capabilities.

“If you look back to the Euro 2017 game, they were hit with a lot of key injuries and they’ve got those players back now,” Steph Houghton said in Saturday’s pre-match press conference.

“With the likes of Kim Little, Jennifer Beattie and now Erin Cuthbert coming through the ranks, we know that they are going to be players that we are going to have to stop and make sure their rhythm doesn’t get anywhere near what they are used to.”

Leah Williamson agreed, telling the press on Friday: "Kim is one of the best players in the world and I see that every week at Arsenal.

“She is not an easy player to play against and on an international level it is different and we all know that.

"I have passed on a few tips and tricks about her, but I think everyone is quite aware of her and her nature - I haven't told anything they don't already know about her.”

Knowing what Little is capable of doesn’t make her any easier to stop. 

A skilful dribbler with an imagination only the world’s greatest playmakers are blessed with, she also has the privilege of having one of football’s most exciting talents in front of her to feed, in Cuthbert.

Neville is by no means underestimating Kerr’s team, telling the media he believes that they can go far this summer.

And with one of the greatest players in the world on their side, he is not wrong.