Wednesday 12 June 2019, 13:30

Debutantes settling into life at first Women’s World Cup

  • Scotland and South Africa players go into the record books

  • Support from crowds has impressed debuting nations

  • Players trying to enjoy the experience, while gaining results

The first round of group matches has been completed in France, and we’ve already seen great goals, great saves, and an array of colour in the stadiums.

The Women’s World Cup is special for any player, coach or fan that is able to be a part of it, but for four nations—Chile, Jamaica, Scotland and South Africa—France 2019 is extra special as it’s their debut participation in the world finals.

None of the four sides were able to pick up a point in their opening matches, however, they all came up against teams with previous World Cup experience, so it was always going to be a tall order.

But there was reason to celebrate for South Africa’s Thembi Kgatlana and Scotland’s Claire Emslie, who entered the record books after both scored in their opening matches against Spain and England respectively to become the very first player from their counties to score at a Women’s World Cup.

So, what did it mean to them?

Thembi Kgatlana – South Africa “It’s an amazing feeling for me, to score my first goal in the World Cup and for the country with our first time coming here. Although, I am a little bit disappointed we didn’t win the match.”

Thembi Kgatlana of South Africa scores her team's first goal

Claire Emslie - Scotland “I don’t know. All I have ever wanted to do since I was a little kid is play for my country and play football, even being at a World Cup is a dream, let alone to score the first goal. I can’t believe it, to be honest. But hopefully there will be a lot more from the team in the future.”

For Jamaica and Chile, there are still at least two more opportunities to create history and for a player to see their name up in lights, with the Jamaicans due to face Italy next in Reims on Friday, while Chile will face the USA in Paris on Sunday. Support for the debuting nations has not been in short supply, with fans travelling in good numbers to get behind their team.

Chile captain and Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Christiane Endler said that when her country’s national anthem was played, the fans “were so loud it felt like we were at home.”

Emslie also commented on her pride in seeing so many Scottish fans turn out in Nice in their defeat to England.

“It was brilliant to hear the echo of the fans, they were fantastic. Seeing so many of them in their kilts, their Scotland tops and their flags, it’s magic that we’ve been able to inspire the nation to come out here.”

The Chile players pose for a team photo

Emslie, Kgatlana and Jamaica head coach Hue Menzies all commented on how positive their experience of France had been so far, and were hopeful that with some positive results, it would get even better.

“It has been a tremendous learning experience for us,” Menzies said. “We’re just soaking everything up. We are learning as we go along – how to manage our schedule, how to manage training, how to get ready for games—it’s not the same as our qualifying, because the pressure is different and the experience of where we are at, is a little different. We are treating things a little bit more detailed and realising that we are having to make a few changes based on the competition we are facing.”

Fans of Jamaica enjoy the pre match atmosphere

“It’s been brilliant,” Emslie said. “Women’s football is just getting bigger and bigger and FIFA has done a huge job, and France has been fantastic in facilitating us. The fans have been magic. It’s been a great, great atmosphere and it’s been enjoyable.”

“It has been great to be here with South Africa,” Kgatlana said. “It is our first time, so we have been trying to enjoy everything to the fullest. Also taking into consideration our performance, we’ve been having tough sessions because the World Cup is another standard compared to African football.”