Fran Kirby praised the confidence-boosting management of Phil Neville following the Lionesses’ victory over Brazil on Saturday and said she is humbled by the comparisons to the football icon Marta.
“It’s really nice to hear your manager praise you so much,” said England’s goalscorer. “He’s got confidence in me, which makes me feel confident when I go out on the pitch. I feel like I can express myself under him. He wants me to get on the ball, to be brave.”
Kirby was the key in the No10 against Brazil, linking with the wide players and Houston Dash’s Rachel Daly in front of her to time and time again unlock the Brazilian defence.
Her opposite number had a quieter game, taken off with a suspected hamstring tweak 20 minutes in, but Kirby was quick deflect from comparisons to Marta, the veteran superstar and six-times Fifa world player of the year.
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“Obviously it’s a great compliment for me. I’ve got massive respect for Marta, I’ve loved watching her play and I love seeing what she does on the ball. If I can try and emulate that in any way then I’m going to be happy with it.
“I just want to keep improving myself as a player and a person and hopefully continue to enjoy being on the pitch.”
After a slow start to her domestic season with Chelsea, the PFA player of the year has scored for club and country within a week but recognises that if England want to be competing for next year’s World Cup, they need to score more.
“We need to make sure that we’re being ruthless with these teams because it does come back to the fine margins,” she said. “At the end when [Brazil] could have scored everyone is thinking about the chances that you missed.
“For me, I want to be scoring goals, that’s what I’m judged on and that’s what I judge myself on. I really enjoy putting the ball in the back of the net, I enjoy being the person that’s creating things for the team. I just want to be on the ball as much as possible, be confident when I get it: can I turn? Can I drive? Can I put the ball in the back of the net?”
With Neville’s style of training and play starting to pay dividends on the pitch Kirby is confident the goals will come and says that it is more enjoyable than under previous regimes: “He always wants us to be positive, he always wants us to drive, he always wants us to play forward. He gives us the confidence to try things that you probably wouldn’t try normally, whether it’s a flick round a corner or a one-two in a tight area.
“Gameplans before have been direct: kick the ball and run after it. He says he’d be more disappointed if we don’t try than if we were to give the ball away and that’s what everyone likes about Phil, he gives you the confidence to go and play. We’ve got good technical players so why not benefit and use them?”
Is it too early to say England can win the World Cup? “No absolutely not, we’ve had two semi-finals now and we felt the hurt in both of them. They were very disappointing for us so we need to make sure we’ve learnt from them and go all the way to the final. We proved ourselves when we played in the SheBelieves Cup. I think we played well, we just fell short against the top nation [the USA]. We’ve got the experience now but we want to make sure we go all the way.”
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