Arsenal stars Mead and Little ready for the Battle of Britain
Title-winning team-mates are set to clash on Sunday as England face Scotland in the Women's World Cup.
Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro, an Australian by birth, refuses to commit to supporting a team in this summer’s World Cup. He’ll enjoy watching his compatriots the Matildas, of course; but when it comes to his own team, there’ll be plenty of representatives in plenty of national teams – and he won’t play favourites.
“I think it’s going to be an amazing tournament,” he says. “There are going to be some special games, some special players are going to come out, and just a European World Cup in a European summer is just special, and the brand of women’s football is fantastic at the moment, so I’m just looking forward to seeing some spectacular games.”
On Sunday June 9th, one of the most anticipated clashes will take place as Phil Neville’s Lionesses take on Shelley Kerr’s Scotland.
It will be Kim Little’s debut on an international tournament stage – and it’s been a long time coming. The 28-year-old missed out on Scotland’s Euro 2017 campaign due to injury, rupturing her cruciate ligament in training with Arsenal, and of course the squad suffered from lacking one of the best players on the planet, with personal accolades including the PFA Players' Player of the Year award and the World Footballer of the Year prize.
“I think I’ve definitely learnt with two big injuries that that’s just football - we put ourselves in the positions where things like that will happen,” she says, referring to the broken leg that she sustained not long after returning from the knee injury.
“I just like going with things, just enjoy the journey and not think too much about things in general. I think that’s the best way to get through life.”
Kim Little in action for Scotland against BrazilGetty Images
Little is as thoughtful off the pitch as one might expect from a visionary playmaker. She returned to Arsenal in 2017 after a two-year sabbatical with Seattle Reign in the US, and her old Gunners boss Laura Harvey. Now the club captain, she has led Arsenal to their first league title in seven years and secured Champions League football for them next season. Such was her focus that it is only in the past few days that she has allowed herself to think about the World Cup.
“I’m very much focused on what my job is at the time,” she explains, adding that up until the end of the season it was ensuring Arsenal won the league with as many points as possible.
Her Arsenal team-mate Beth Mead is much the same.
“You’ve got to concentrate on club (football) until the season is finished,” she says.
The 24-year-old striker found out about her selection via email; they had been told to expect the message at 8am on a Tuesday morning. Not for Mead, the repetitive clicking of the refresh button, though.
“I set my alarm for the time it was supposed to be sent so I wasn’t sat there refreshing - I knew I wouldn’t be doing that,” she reveals. “I set my alarm and it was there when I looked - 7.59 they sent it, honestly. It was an amazing feeling to know I’ve got in.”
Beth Mead in England actionGetty Images
Mead takes no great reassurance from the 6-0 victory the Lionesses logged against Scotland in Euro 2017, a tournament for which she was not selected despite her fantastic goalscoring record for her then-club Sunderland.
“Kim was injured, Mitch [Emma Mitchell] was out, they had a lot of core players that were missing – and Kim’s a massive cog in the way they play,” she says. “A lot of them are playing well in league - Erin Cuthbert’s stepped up this season for Chelsea, so they’re in a very good place. It’s a cup competition, anything could happen.
"We’ve got to be on the ball to play against them. They’ve just beaten Brazil recently [1-0 in an April friendly, in which Little scored the only goal of the game], so yeah, they’re in very good form, as we are, but yeah, it’s going to be a very tough game - it’s a tough group!”
Little also expects a tighter match – but an entertaining one.
“I think just for British football, people here in the UK, it’ll be a great occasion - hopefully we can both put on really great performances and provide a great spectacle,” she says.