Football commentator and former Lioness, Sue Smith, is in Paris covering the Women’s’ World Cup for the BBC. Providing co-commentary for the opening game, Sue will also be following England across France for their initial matches and hopefully beyond - should they progress.
We caught up with Sue to find out her thoughts about the England v Scotland fixture, and what the tournament itself will do for the women’s game.
Hi Sue, is it exciting that England’s first game is with another British team?
Yes! Whenever we play Scotland in any sport, there’s always that little bit of rivalry. I think because quite a few of these Scottish players usually play in the English league, it’ll add a bit of extra spice too. They know each other so well, and I’m sure there’s been a bit of banter between them. I don’t think it’ll be as easy for England because Scotland are defensively stronger than they’ve ever been, and have overcome lots of injuries. I think it will be quite a close affair. If England perform they should be victorious, but Scotland have improved dramatically and they’ll have a game plan. I’ve been asked to pick my game of the tournament, and I keep choosing this one because it’s an exciting game for everyone in the sport.
Is the media attention different this time than with previous international women’s’ football tournaments?
There’s been massively more media attention. Usually, people get on board when England start to progress, but this time they want to do previews and know about the teams even before it’s all kicked off. To me, it shows how much the game has grown.
What’s the atmosphere like out there?
They’re expecting a sell-out crowd for the opening game - I think it’ll be amazing. Lucy Bronze, who plays for Lyon, says the crowds out here are unbelievable and the support they receive is exactly the same as the men get. They’re crazy about football, and she said the support in France would be fantastic because the fans are really loud and the atmosphere will be brilliant.
I’m looking forward to the opening game hearing that because that’s what you want for women’s football - to be treated the same as the men’s game.
What do you hope this tournament will mean for the women’s’ game in the UK?
I just hope it takes it to the next level. We’re certainly on a good path at the moment and improving every year.
If England win the tournament, more companies will want a part of women’s football, and that will be better for everyone involved in the game. England being successful - and the visibility that will bring - will get more young girls playing football and that’s the most important thing. Whether that’s in the park with their mates, at a local club or if they want to go and play at an elite level, it’s just getting them playing and having fun. I’ve got so much out of the game, and I just want other girls to experience that. I know the girls on the team always remember that they are role models.They want to get more girls interested and thinking that girls playing football is the norm.
Finally, who do you think can go all the way?
I think France have a massive shot. They should win their opening game against South Korea, but sometimes it can be difficult when you’re expected to win, so it will be down to how they cope with that pressure.
What’s so good about this tournament is that there are about five or six sides that could go all the way, like the USA, Germany and even Australia - who people aren’t really talking about. Still, my favourite at the moment is of course England.
Kick-off 5pm, watch live on BBC One.