TONI DUGGAN is hoping her luck has changed after being passed fit for England’s final World Cup group game against Japan tomorrow.
The Barcelona forward picked up a thigh injury on the squad’s first day of training after arriving in France earlier this month.
She was forced to sit out the wins over Scotland and Argentina, but is expected to play some part in the Group D decider in Nice.
Duggan said: ‘I’m going to be fit, so I have a big smile on my face. It’s really frustrating to pick up an injury at any point in a year but the first day of a World Cup was really, really disappointing. [But] I’m back now and I want to look ahead and hopefully help the team in the tournament. I’m itching to get out there.
‘To miss training sessions, not be around the team, be doing stuff individually, it can be quite tough. But I’ve tried to stay positive,’ she added.
‘I know it’s a team game and I need to help my team-mates, and I’m one of the more experienced squad members, so I’ve tried to do that. Quite a few of the girls are at their first World Cup, so I’ve tried to have an input off the pitch. But I think now it’s time for me to have an input on the pitch.’
The Lionesses are already qualified for the knockout stages but can guarantee top spot and a potentially easier route through the draw if they avoid defeat tomorrow.
Duggan was in the team beaten by Japan in a 2015 World Cup semi-final settled by Laura Bassett’s injury-time own goal, but denies England are hoping to avenge that loss.
Instead, she says the Lionesses want to prove they are potential champions this time.
‘It’s not about any revenge or how we played last time,’ said the 27-year-old, who has scored 22 goals in 72 appearances for England,
‘It’s disappointing when you lose but I think we inspired a nation. That was our aim. This year there’s a different focus — we’re here to win it.’
World Cup briefing
■ SOPHIE HOWARD says Scotland will relish the pressure against Argentina today as they bid to reach the last 16. The Scots must win to have a chance to progress and Howard said: ‘We are aware the pressure is on us. We fight until the end. This journey is not done.’
■ SPAIN and China both made the last-16 after a 0-0 draw yesterday.
■ 10 — Minutes injury-time due to VAR interventions as France beat Nigeria 1-0 last night thanks to a controversial, twice-taken Wendie Renard penalty