‘Now we make a mistake, we get over it’: Fran Kirby insists English spirit could be key to reaching Women’s World Cup final
- Fran Kirby was overcome with emotion after the group win over Argentina
- Kirby, who turned 26 yesterday, lost her mother, Denise, to a brain haemorrhage
- Neville and her team-mates sought her out to comfort her after Argentina win
England playmaker Fran Kirby, an emerging star when England lost in the semi-finals of the World Cup in Canada four years ago, is convinced that the team spirit and sense of togetherness in the current squad can help take them one step further by beating the USA in Tuesday’s semi-final in Lyon.
Kirby was overcome with emotion after the group win over Argentina because the match had fallen on what would have been her late mother’s birthday.
Kirby, who turned 26 yesterday, lost her mother, Denise, to a brain haemorrhage 11 years ago and has admitted she still struggles to cope with the loss.
Fran Kirby was an emerging star when England lost in the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2015
But the spirit in Phil Neville’s squad was summed up by the way Neville and her team-mates sought her out to comfort her in the immediate aftermath of England’s victory at the Stade Oceane.
‘I didn’t know that the girls knew it was my mum’s birthday,’ Kirby said after Thursday’s quarter-final win over Norway. ‘The way that everyone acted around me was so special.
‘I spoke to Phil the day before, and I was like, “look, we need to win and then we can speak about it and be as emotional as we want”. I knew I had to get the job done for the team.
‘To see everyone’s reactions, have everyone coming over to me, it was so special and it made me feel part of this team. I had no idea they knew and it showed the girls were looking out for each other. It was a bit of a surprise to me but I found out later that some of the girls had been messaging my agent, asking if it was my mum’s birthday.’
Neville and her team-mates sought her out to comfort her after England’s win over Argentina
Kirby, called ‘mini-Messi’ by former boss Mark Sampson, a label she hated, also pointed to a change of style in play and mentality under Neville that she believes has improved the side’s chances of reaching the final.
‘When things were going wrong for us in Canada,’ the Chelsea player said, ‘we maybe hid away from our true selves. Now, we make a mistake, we get over it and we do it again.
‘If someone gives the ball away, they are working hard to win it back and then they are not scared to go and get it again. It’s being in a position to go: “Okay, I have made a mistake but I want to go and get the ball again.”
‘I’m a lot more mature as a player now than I was in Canada. I was just this young girl who played as a forward then. I wasn’t doing much defensive work. Now, I’m trying to change my game and work a bit harder off the ball and when I’m on the ball, try to create as much as I possibly can.
‘I am trying to encourage my team-mates whereas before I would be quite quiet on the pitch and only expressive in the way that I played.
‘Now I feel a bit more authoritative in those situations.’