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Chelsea’s Erin Cuthbert has opened up about “hating” football following Scotland’s heartbreaking World Cup exit in Paris, and says it has taken time to rediscover her love of the game.
Irvine-born Cuthbert, 22, represented her nation at the 2019 Women's World Cup in France, but the Scots failed to get out of the group stages.
Scotland were beaten 2-1 by England in their first Group D match, and a defeat to Japan by the same scoreline left them needing to beat Argentina.
Scotland led Argentina 3-0 with Cuthbert scoring the third with 21 minutes left and seemingly en route to the round of 16, but Argentina mounted an incredible comeback - including a retaken penalty in the 94th minute - to send the Scots crashing out.
Cuthbert admits that her nation's dramatic exit in Paris affected her mental health after the tournament, and led to her questioning her place in the game.
Speaking on The Players Podcast, Cuthbert said: “That was tough. That was really, really tough and I think the months that followed after the World Cup were the hardest ones I’ve ever had in my life. For me, my career has been quite good. I know a lot of Scotland players have never been to a tournament before so I felt incredibly lucky and I still do feel incredibly lucky. But I think that was the first one where I’ve started to slip off the edge a little bit after the World Cup. It took me a long time to get over.
"As a young player I really, really struggled because Scotland’s my country. It means the bloody world to me to play for my country. To be able to be at those games is amazing and I’ll be completely honest here, there was nothing worse than getting home and watching the games and seeing the other teams there. Seeing Japan, seeing England in our group there, there was nothing worse.
“I actually hated it. I hated football. I actually hated it. I hated it for how it made me feel. I really did. Football’s such a love/hate sport and I realise now you can’t get too high. You cannot also get too low on the lows, as clichéd as that sounds.”
Cuthbert says the disappointment seeped over into her Chelsea career, with boss Emma Hayes concerned for her: "I went back to the club and I hated football.
"All the girls were talking about it, and I didn’t want to talk about. I really, really didn’t want to talk about it because I was so traumatised by what happened that night in Paris. And I will always have that memory of Paris, I hate that.
"We only had two-and-a-half weeks off [before pre-season]. I went on holiday. I went away to forget about it. I didn’t go home to see my family. I didn’t want to be in Scotland because we had such a big profile at the time and I didn’t want anyone to see me and I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me because that just wasn’t the case.
"I went away and then I came back and I got injured. Emma Hayes said to me the week before: ‘Your head’s not in it, you don’t look right.’ She was like: ‘I’m worried about you.’ And then literally the week after I go and do my ankle quite badly in training, the day before we flew out for a pre-season tour, and I got left behind.
"That was probably the loneliest part because when you’re down in London, you have your team-mates and that’s really it for me. As much as you try and expand your network, it’s just about your team, and when your team weren’t here, I didn’t really have anyone so that was tough. But I’m still very grateful for it because I needed the time away from football to appreciate it again and to get my love back because after the World Cup I hated the sport so much.”