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TONI DUGGAN is set to be fit for England’s clash with Japan tomorrow and admits she is “itching to get out there.”
Duggan sustained a thigh problem in training the day after the Lionesses arrived in France for the Women’s World Cup and subsequently sat out their opening two Group D games as Phil Neville’s side beat Scotland 2-1 and then Argentina 1-0.
Asked about Wednesday’s match in Nice, Barcelona forward 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.
“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.”
The 27-year-old, who has scored 22 goals in 72 appearances for England, added: “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.
“I know it’s a team game and I need to help my teammates 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, which hopefully has been effective.
“But I think now it’s time for me to have an input on the pitch.”
Duggan was in the England team beaten 2-1 by Japan in the semi-finals of the 2015 tournament in Canada, a match settled by Laura Bassett’s gut-wrenching injury-time own goal.
It was a first appearance in the last four of a Women’s World Cup for England — then managed by Mark Sampson — and they subsequently finished third.
Duggan feels the team achieved the major target four years ago in that they “inspired a nation” — and has stressed that this time “we’re here to win it.”
She said of the 2015 semi-final: “Crazy game. To lose a game in the last minute when your teammate scores an own goal, it’s really difficult, for us as a team and for the individual.
“But what a tournament. I reflect on that tournament with great memories to be honest.
“Obviously it’s always disappointing when you lose, but I think we inspired a nation. That was our biggest aim that year. I think this year there’s a different focus — we’re here to win it.
“There’s a lot of belief in the squad. If you compare the two squads, we’ve kept the kind of core group together and I think that’s been part of our success.
“I look through the team-sheet and squad list and I think: ‘Wow I’ve known some of these players 10, 12, 15 years.’ For me, on the pitch, that’s one of the most important things. You see our togetherness.
“The first two games in this tournament haven’t been easy, they’ve been difficult, against tough opponents. But you’ve seen the real togetherness.”
Having already secured a place in the last 16, England head into their concluding group game on Wednesday looking to seal top spot in the pool.
Duggan said: “It’s not about any revenge or how we played last time [in 2015] against Japan. It’s just about topping the group at this World Cup, that’s our aim.”
Japan are second with four points, having drawn 0-0 with Argentina and beaten Scotland 2-1.
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