Fran Kirby ‘excited’ to see how England can grow after opening win over Austria

The Lionesses started the tournament with a win (The FA via Getty Images)
The Lionesses started the tournament with a win (The FA via Getty Images)

Fran Kirby has spoken of her hopes of England’s performances and her own building through Euro 2022 after the hosts opened their campaign with Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Austria.

The tournament curtain-raiser at Old Trafford, which had a competition-record attendance of 68,871, saw the Lionesses claim three points thanks to a 16th-minute Beth Mead finish teed up by Kirby’s pass.

Subsequent attempts to add to the lead included Ellen White heading wide from a good position and a Lauren Hemp effort being well saved by Manuela Zinsberger, whose opposite number Mary Earps then made a couple of stops in the final quarter of the game as Sarina Wiegman’s side saw out the victory.

Kirby said: “I think it was positive, I think it was important to get the first three points. We know that we have to improve throughout the tournament. But Austria are a good side, they have some really good players playing in some top sides, so I think overall we’re happy with the performance and hopefully we can build from it.

“We know we can play better…but I’m excited to see how much we can build throughout this tournament and keep growing as a team.”

Kirby returned to action in England’s three warm-up games last month having not previously played in a match since February due to a fatigue-related issue.

The Chelsea forward said: “I’m feeling really good. I think each game I’ve come into it, my performance has grown. It takes a bit of time to get used to international level again.

“Before Christmas I was playing some of my best football, so I’m just trying to focus on how I was playing then and hopefully bring it in.

“I still know my performance is not at the level I want it to be. I want to make sure that I keep building it – I’d rather peak at the final than in the first game. So hopefully I can keep doing that.”

Kirby described the atmosphere generated by the record crowd in Manchester as “incredible”.

“When we came out for the warm-up, it was really, really special,” the 29-year-old said. “You come out to do the line-ups and hear everyone singing the national anthem and it’s goosebumps. It’s a moment I definitely won’t forget for a long, long time.”

Kirby added: “I think our priority is to win the tournament, and to also show young boys and girls that these things are achievable, to play in front of 70,000 people at Old Trafford.

“When I was growing up, I never even imagined that was possible. I think anything that’s going to help grow the game in this country and all over the world is a positive thing, regardless of whether we win or don’t.”

Kirby also stressed, with regard to talk of England being among the tournament favourites, that “no game is going to be easy in this competition…no one’s going to give us this trophy, no one wants us to win it at home, everyone has that added fuel to beat us because we are at home. We have to take each game as it comes.”

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

England midfielder Georgia Stanway, named player of the match on Wednesday, said when asked what had been the best part of the evening: “I think the noise – although it was hard to hear information, it was hard to hear from the sidelines, it was hard to hear Keira (Walsh) shouting at me from behind!

“But I think the noise, that just shows where we’re at. That’s the standard the fans have set, and we need that at every single game. Bring the noise, and it can rattle the opposition.”

England’s Group A fixtures continue with matches against Norway at the Amex Stadium on Monday and then Northern Ireland at St Mary’s four days later, both of which are sold out.

Among the crowd at Wednesday’s match were Manchester United’s David De Gea and Harry Maguire, who wrote on Twitter: “A winning start – what an atmosphere at Old Trafford. Well done Lionesses.”