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City stars to lock horns in Women's World Cup

HEAD-TO-HEAD: England and Scotland will face each other in the Women's World Cup

HEAD-TO-HEAD: England and Scotland will face each other in the Women's World Cup

City teammates will go head-to-head at the Women's World Cup, as England and Scotland have been drawn in the same group for next summer's tournament in France.

A double figure of Blues could potentially feature with Phil Neville and Shelly Kerr’s sides set to face off in Nice on June 9 in their Group D opener, before going on to face 2015 finalists Japan and Argentina.

The fixture proved a major talking point from the draw and will see Club teammates battle it out on the international stage once more.

England beat the Scots 6-0 when the two faced each other in the opening game of the 2017 European Championships, but City and England captain Steph Houghton says they will face a different side this time out.

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“It’s exciting," she told ManCity.com. "It’s our opening fixture and it’s good for us to have this focus. They’ll have some key players back and they’ve improved so much. We’ll give them the respect they deserve, but we know what we have too.

"It’s a massive game for both teams and it’s a World Cup debut for them – it’s huge for them.

"Of course we know Caroline [Weir], Jen [Beattie] and Claire [Emslie]. You know each other inside out - training day in, day out on the training field. It’s hard to put friendship aside at international level, but we’re professionals and we will do that.”

Houghton’s City and England team-mate Jill Scott is also excited at the thought of opening the campaign against their national neighbours.

“I actually did think that we would get Scotland, you know," she admitted. "We know a lot of their players very well, playing week in, week out against them in the WSL.

"I think it will be a much tougher game this time around though. They have two years more experience of playing top level international football. They’ve matured a lot too. The fact they came from behind in two of their qualifying games is testament to that.

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"In terms of the other teams – we played Japan in the 2011 World Cup, which they won and we were they only team to beat them during that campaign. They have great technical ability and we’re going to have to be at our best against them.

"I played against Argentina at my first World Cup in 2007 and we beat them 6-1. I scored my first international goal in that game! They are a lower ranked team and I’m sure they will come with an attitude of wanting to beat us."

It will be a World Cup debut for Kerr’s Scotland and only their second ever international tournament.

Despite their inexperience at this level, City and Scotland midfielder Weir is confident in her side’s ability.

“It’s very exciting," she declared. "You couldn’t really write it, getting England in our first game. It’s definitely the one that stands out and our first game too – it will be a great occasion.

"Japan are obviously a top team as well and I expect Argentina will be a very technical side.

"We know we’ve faced England before in our first ever international tournament in 2017, but you can’t really compare where we are now to where we were in that game. It was our first game in a major tournament and we have a lot of injuries. We have a new manager now and we are playing a different way now.

"It’s the strongest squad that I have been involved in and in six months, we’ll be in an even better place.

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"Tactically we like to keep the ball more, we like to go and attack things more on the front foot. Shelly [Kerr] instils confidence in us, she also reminds us how important it is to represent our country and be role models. It’s become a big part of what we do. We’re going to go out there and try to enjoy every minute.”

Canada’s Janine Beckie and Pauline Bremer of Germany are two other City players hoping to represent their respective countries next summer.

It will be Beckie’s first appearance at a World Cup, should she make Kenneth Heiner Moller’s side.

“We’ve got New Zealand, the Netherlands and Cameroon," she stated. "We’ve got history with both New Zealand and the Netherlands. The Netherlands have actually never beaten Canada, but everyone will see that as the most difficult game.

"New Zealand are a bit of wild card. It will be interesting to see the games they put together to prepare and we will be tracking their preparation.

"Cameroon are definitely the biggest wild card. I know nothing about them. I expect they will be physically strong and not very organised, which can be difficult to play against.

"This will be my first World Cup, should I make the team. It will be for a lot of women on the team, but we have the veterans too. It will be exciting and a new experience and we will have a very strong squad of players with a fantastic support team, who will have us very well prepared.”

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Despite that though, the German striker is determined to do everything she can to give herself every change of selection.

“I’m just coming back from a long-term injury, so I need to get back fit and get back to a 100% level," she asserted.

"There’s not much time. I think we gave three camps to prepare. It’s going to be tough, but I will try my best.

"I still can’t believe that I am actually back playing. I have never had such a big injury before, but I will be trying my best.

"All the teams are quality, but especially Spain. We know them, we just played them last month. I was injured, but the girls drew 0-0 with them and we know how string they are.

"I think all the European teams that have qualified are really good teams. They are all getting closer and closer together, it’s getting harder.

"China are very technical, we know how they can play and African teams are always unpredictable, so it’s a tough group and we need to make sure that we continue to improve and progress."

Women’s World Cup Groups

Group A

France, Norway, South Korea, Nigeria 

Group B

Germany, China, Spain, South Africa

Group C

Australia, Italy, Brazil, Jamaica

Group D

England, Scotland, Argentina, Japan

Group E

Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand, Netherlands

Group F

USA, Thailand, Chile, Sweden

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