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Toni Duggan: ‘England Are Good Enough to Win the World Cup’

Toni Duggan: ‘England Are Good Enough to Win the World Cup’

Tuesday, 12 March, 2019 - 07:30
Toni Duggan says of this England team: ‘We want to take ourselves out of our comfort zones.’ Photograph: Lynne Cameron for The FA/Rex/Shutterstock
London - Suzanne Wrack
‘When I look back to being a 10-year-old girl I never could have dreamt of having this pathway. I feel very fortunate and proud, but I know I have to be part of creating new opportunities for the youth coming through.”

Toni Duggan is not alone in feeling the need to not only ensure there is a ladder behind her but also to give younger players a leg-up on to it. It is a common theme when you talk to female footballers – an instinctive solidarity alongside respect and admiration for those who paved the way for them.

There could be jealousy at the opportunities afforded to young players but instead there is pride, alongside a drive to do even more. “I don’t envy them, I don’t know if I mean envy, but I’m proud of the journey I’ve been on,” says Duggan, an England forward who is playing at Barcelona. “It’s kind of nice, and rewarding, to have been on the journey from having to play football and work to being a professional.

“The girls have got it lucky now, but there’s also a generation before me that never got the chance to play professional football so I’m just so glad and proud of the way the women’s game has developed and proud of the contribution [made by] myself and the rest of my teammates.”

When the now 27-year-old’s move from Manchester City to Barcelona was announced in 2017 it hit the mainstream headlines – the first English player to join the Catalan club since Gary Lineker in 1986. Yet while Lucy Bronze’s double‑winning season with Lyon has caught the eye, Duggan’s steady resurgence at Barelona has been a little under the radar. In her first season, while grappling with swapping Liverpool for the Mediterranean, only Andressa Alves scored more goals for Barça, 12 to the 11 apiece of Duggan, Lieke Martens and Alexia Putellas.

With Izzy Christiansen having joined Bronze in Lyon and Mary Earps making the move to Wolfsburg, English players are increasingly taking on adventures abroad and Duggan believes the risk is very much worth it. “This is the next level now,” she says. “We want to take ourselves out of our comfort zones; when you’re in your comfort zone for so long you only play to a certain level.

“It’s been an unbelievable experience, I’ve loved every minute of it and I’d recommend it to youth coming through because, like I said, it takes you out of your comfort zone: you learn a new language, a new style of play.

“You also come up against opponents like this week in, week out and if we come up against Spain in the World Cup then I’ll have a little more information on them.”

It has also made life with the England team simpler. “I feel a lot more comfortable coming into camp because it’s easy for me, I know the language, I know the style, I feel at home. I find it a lot easier.”

England’s triumph at the SheBelieves Cup, during which they beat Brazil, USA and finally Japan, has fuelled hope within Phil Neville’s squad that they can achieve even greater things at the World Cup in France this summer.

“We want a major honour, and we’re good enough to win one so it [winning the SheBelieves Cup] is just the start,” says Duggan. “I think we’ve always had it but the proof is in the pudding and what better way to go into the World Cup than knowing you’ve come from behind against two of the top nations in the world [Brazil and USA]? There will be times when we do go behind, hopefully not, but if there are we can draw on this experience together and pull through.”

Duggan, who scored four times as England won the 2009 Uefa Under-19 Women’s Championship in a team that included Bronze and Christiansen, is also full of praise for how Neville has created belief within the senior squad. “He’s been amazing, he’s instilled that winning mentality,” she says. “He’s put so much trust in so many players; from one to 24 we’ve all played our part in this tournament [win] and to have a manager that’s so confident in every single individual is rare.”

The difference between this team and the one undone by the Netherlands at Euro 2017 is predictability – the current side has less of it. “Teams of the past have had a mix of experience and youth and everyone goes on about how good that is but with this team you have players that can play in every single position,” says Duggan. “We have players that can play in three or four of them; Lucy Bronze, Rachel Daly, myself, Ellen White ... I could name them all.

“How can opposition [teams] predict the starting lineup and analyse it? Because we don’t even know it.”

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