Women's World Cup 2015: Jill Scott says England have to 'believe in themselves' in opener against France

The match takes place on Tuesday in Moncton

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The Independent Online

It was the moment when the team joker, the architect of a series of light-hearted videos at the 2011 World Cup, the woman who imitated Peter Crouch’s ‘Robot’ dance when she scored her first goal for England, was shown to have a hard edge.

Manchester City, having a season below their high expectations, were losing to Arsenal in April when Scott butted Jade Bailey after the pair had contested possession. With the women’s game now televised casual followers suddenly discovered the girls can mix it like the boys. Some will have been disappointed, others will have seen it as a measure of the sport’s increased stakes and maturity.

Scott's own view of the incident is that it was embarrassing has been learned from, and won't happen again. The England midfielder missed three matches while serving suspension and with as games in the FA Women’s Super League do not exactly come thick-and-fast that meant more than a month out. This meant she comes into this Women’s World Cup short of match action, but she insists that is not a problem as England prepare to take on France at Moncton Stadium tomorrow.

“It’s an action that I do regret, but I don’t feel like I lost fitness by missing those games,” said Scott. “If anything I probably feel in better condition because I could work on things I needed to and could prioritise England in that time.

“Obviously I have had Sundays off when the girls have been playing and it’s been really hard for me watching from sidelines but rather than having time off it’s probably been a lot tougher because I’ve had to do more training.

“It was a tough lesson for me to learn, it’s the first time I’ve ever been sent off, but I’d rather it came at that point than at a big tournament. People say it was out of character but the way you get judged off-pitch sometimes isn’t always how you are on it. Yeah, I’m laughing and joking off the pitch but I also know I’m highly competitive when it comes to game time. And probably it just edged slightly one way (that time), but I’m confident it won’t happen again and I’m ready to move on now.  

“I don’t think I’ll ever look at it as a good experience. I’ve got enough experience to know how to handle myself. I was just very competitive that game, we were getting beat and I just let things get on top of us. If you see any confrontations going on [tomorrow] you’ll probably see me running in the complete opposite direction. I used that time very wisely and feel like I am in good shape coming into this tournament.”

England’s opener renews a one-sided rivalry with France who put England out of World Cup 2011, on penalties, and Euro 2013. Scott played both times but says the history is of limited relevance. “I think you can always draw on past experiences. A lot of people have asked us about 2011 but at the same time a lot can happen in four years - new manager, new tactics new players. It's kind of eclipsed the past a bit as they've got some new players I've never come up against and I'm sure it's the same for them. So I think it's drawing on past experience in terms of game management.”

“The World Cup match was a roller-coaster of emotions. We took the lead after about 50 minutes and really thought we’d hang on. But they scored with about two minutes to go and in extra time we were really struggling because we’d all given it our absolute all, so then to take it to penalties was a bonus because France were probably  the better side in extra time. But then to lose on pens was absolutely devastating – but that’s what tournament football’s about.

“It took a long time to get over it. If you lose a club match you’ve got another one next week, but with the World Cup you know you’re not going to get that opportunity for another four years. For some of us you could never get that opportunity again. So it was heartbreaking, but you’ve got to pick yourselves up and go again.

“We know France are a good team and we have to respect them for that. They’ve done a lot in the women’s game and over the past few years have shown why they’ve a driving force in the game. They’re very physical, they can get the ball down and play and they’ve got a lot of pace. But we’ve got to believe in ourselves going into this game.

“We’re a different team now. The WSL is mainly professional and players are a lot fitter, our knowledge and understanding of the game is so much better. I think that we’ve really shown progression tactically and technically, so hopefully that will stand us in good stead for this tournament.I don't actually feel nervous at all. I feel quite relaxed and I think the team feel relaxed.  We're excited we've waited a long time for this tournament and I'm quite excited for us just to go out there, play our game and see what happens.”

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