Women's World Cup: 'Mini Messi' Kirby ready for Colombia

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport in Montreal
Fran Kirby scores against Mexico
Fran Kirby's goal against Mexico came on her first start at a major tournament
Women's World Cup: England v Colombia, Group F
Date: 17 June. Kick-off: 21:00 BST. Venue: Olympic Stadium, Montreal. Coverage: Watch live on BBC Three and online, plus commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and text coverage on the BBC Sport website

Fran Kirby - the England forward nicknamed "Mini Messi" - is ready for a physical battle when she faces Group F leaders Colombia on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old scored in the 2-1 victory over Mexico, putting England in charge of their own destiny in Group F.

A win or a draw against Colombia will guarantee qualification to the Women's World Cup second round.

"If Colombia try and kick me up, that means I'm winning so I'll give them a cheeky smile and carry on," said Kirby.

"That will probably annoy them even more but I think I'll be alright."

The Reading striker, who is the only player in England's squad to play in the second tier of the Women's Super League, was labelled "Mini Messi' by England boss Mark Sampson for her similarities to the Barcelona and Argentina star.

Kirby added: "A lot of players in the WSL 2 try to get me and make sure that I don't get back up again so I'm used to that side of football."

England, ranked sixth in the world, are second in Group F and face a Colombia side who are ranked 22 places below them.

The South American side shocked France, ranked third in the world, by winning 2-0 following a draw with Mexico in their opening game.

England will hope to beat them and if they better France's goal difference, they will top the group. Finishing second means facing previous World Cup winners Norway in the second round but a draw would also see England qualify as one of the best third-placed teams.

Kirby's goal against Mexico came four years since she decided to quit football after a spell of depression following the death of her mother.

Group F table

She said her father, who she calls her "biggest critic", was unusually quiet after watching the Mexico game, but that she was popular with her brother's friends, who had bet on her being the first goalscorer.

"My dad knows how hard I've worked to get to where I am, he and my brother have been so supportive," she added.

"I was quite surprised that I didn't get as much stick from them as I usually do in previous games but I think dad realised I was on such a high that he didn't need to be criticising me.

"My brother messaged me to say 'well done loser' which shows the kind of relationship we have going on in the family!"

Kirby, who is the second youngest player in England's squad said the feedback on social media since the game had been "surreal".

"It just exploded. It was very surreal, I don't think I'll ever get used to people tweeting me 'well done Mini Messi'," she added.

"There was one message that really caught my eye about a young girl that had never played football before. It was a from a guy who said his young niece had seen me and wanted to go to the park with a football in her hand. That was powerful."


The story of Fran Kirby

Fran Kirby celebrates
Kirby's rise to the top of the women's game has come via an unusual route

Aged seven: Is taken to football training at Reading for the first time

Aged 17: Quits football after battling depression following the death of her mother

Aged 19: Rejoins Reading and scores 33 goals in her first season

How Kirby's love of football returned

Aged 20: Scores on her England debut

Aged 21: Turns professional - first woman to do so at Reading FC

Aged 21: Scores 29 goals in 22 games as Reading finish third in WSL 2

Aged 21: Scores on first World Cup start, against Mexico


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