La Promenade des Anglais is taking on the appearance of La Promenade des Écosse. "Ten years ago I would never have dreamt I was going abroad to watch the women's team," fan Arthur Macdonald said. "Now the football is far better. It's better than the men."
The Scottish men haven't been to the World Cup — or any tournament — since 1998. While the men are 44th in the FIFA rankings, the women are at No. 20 and qualified as winners of a European group. They are preparing for a second consecutive tournament after debuting at the European Championship two years ago. Scotland was thrashed 6-0 by England in the group stage and left the Netherlands without a single point with Anna Signeul of Sweden as coach, sparking a study by the federation into what went wrong.
"There's been a huge number of changes over the last two years," Scotland captain Rachel Corsie said Saturday. "This is a whole new tournament, the objectives have been set for us as a group and we know what we're asking of one another."
While Scotland is unlikely to be leaving France with any medals, coach Shelley Kerr is already sure of one. In the Queen's Birthday Honors List on the eve of the game, Kerr was named an MBE, or Member of the Order of the British Empire, in recognition of a career that includes titles as manager of Arsenal's women's team.
It's a career that began for the senior national team in 1989 against England. "We lost 3-0 and I'm hoping for a better result than that tomorrow," Kerr said. "To see the journey that Scottish women's football has been on is incredible. Forget performance for a moment. We look at legacy as well. It's been a great journey for us."
Unlike at Euro 2017, Scotland has Kim Little available after the Arsenal midfielder missed out on a tournament debut because of injury. With 132 international appearances, Little scored her 53rd goal in a 1-0 victory against Brazil — part of a five-match unbeaten run for the Scots.
England will be an even sterner test, sitting third in the rankings below the defending champions from the United States and Germany. "I think looking at the Euro 2017 game they were hit with a lot of injuries to key players and they've got those players back now," England captain Steph Houghton said. "They've grown a lot over the last two years. They've qualified for their first World Cup and they've beaten Brazil, and they're definitely a lot stronger with those players in the squad."
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