EXCLUSIVE BY PAUL LAGAN
Lionessess Millie Bright is ready to snuff out the goal threat from Chelsea team-mate Erin Cuthbert as England and Scotland face each other in their opening World Cup group match on Sunday.
Scotland striker Cuthbert, 20, scored a sensational 25-yard goal at the weekend as they completed their warm-up preparations for the tournament in France which starts tomorrow with a 3-2 victory over Jamaica.
Bright, by contrast sat out the 2-0 defeat to New Zealand but is expected to be the centre-back rock at the heart of England’s defence.
Bright, 25, is fully aware of the danger of Cuthbert but says she and the team are ready for it: “I would definitely not have let her get that shot away,” said the Chelsea vice-skipper.
“It’s something you look at going into games – the players you will be facing.
“It’s our responsibility to know who we are coming up against and what their traits are. And of course knowing Erin from our club, I know that’s one of her traits – to score from distance – so obviously, it’s something we are already aware of.
“No matter who is playing on Sunday, playing in that position, I don’t think they will allow her to get that time on the ball.
“So it’s about us doing the analysis and making sure we are in a good position going in to the first game.”
The Lionesses are one of the tournament favourites but won’t be underestimating their opponents.
“Scotland are in really good form at the minute,” she said. “So we can’t predict if we are going to have the majority of possession. But I’d like to think we will. But you can have possession and not put away your chances.
“It’s one of those games where you have to be open to all scenarios, but we know what we are doing.”
England boss Phil Neville has said he will tell the players who will be starting on Friday – Bright is prepared. “We are just working to be in the best possible shape,” she said.
“Whether you start or not, you have to do your part for the team.”
England go into the tournament with three goalkeepers who have not had many minutes at club level due to injury or non-selection – Chelsea’s Carly Telford played at the weekend – but Bright does not think that is a major issue. She said: “It’s hard – I don’t know really on a personal level as I’ve played quite a lot. I think they have enough experience and enough quality to be in that position and then perform on the big stage of the World Cup.”
Bright, was protective of Telford, who appeared to spill a shot that led to New Zealand’s winning goal.
“The goal Carly conceded against New Zealand took a little deflection,” she suggested.
“That explains the spill. I don’t think it was down to poor quality. The ball moved a lot. I don’t think the goalkeepers have anything to worry about, they are physically and mentally prepared. Their qualities will shine through.”
Chelsea have four players in the Lionesses squad with Chelsea skipper Karen Carney and striker Fran Kirby making up the quartet.
Carney has made impressive performances from the bench in the past two games, but Bright would not be drawn on whether the 31-year- old wide player will start.
“I don’t know if she will start,” she said. “I don’t think anyone is in a position to say that. I think we have had a lot of rotation (of players), everyone is performing really well, it’s anyone’s position to take.”
But is she making it difficult for Neville to leave out? Bright thinks so. “Yeah, I think that’s the position we want all our players to be in,” she said.
“Phil (Neville) is always saying to us ‘make it difficult for me to pick a team.’
“That’s what we have been striving for. Every day putting in the work, performing and when it comes to games, to get the opportunity and make sure you shine through again.”
Kirby had had a poor domestic season by her high standards, but again Bright is unconcerned about her contribution for England. “I think it’s always hard playing with different players,” she said in reference to Kirby playing in a side that rotated players in recent matches.
“You have to settle into the games, and try new things. I think the girls played really well.
“But it was good for everyone to have had minutes (on the pitch). Everyone can say they have had a chance, had minutes going into the tournament. And that puts us in a really strong position.”
As for Chelsea next season, Bright knows that they will have to do better. The Blues finished third behind Arsenal and Manchester City in the WSL1 but reached the semi-final of the Champions League.
So far Emma Hayes has brought in one player – Norway’s goal-scoring midfielder Guro Reiten, while only goalkeeper Hedvig Lindal has left the club.
Bright said: “I’ve not really heard anything from the club in terms of who is coming in or going out.
“We are in a strong position either way. “We did not get the results we wanted in the season and yet we had some of our best performances, and we were really successful in the Champions League, and unlucky not to progress (to the final) so on the back of that, we are in a strong position. But I know that we need to have a better start.”
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