Scotland have arrived in France armed to the teeth with attacking talent but will still feel like the underdogs when they face England for their World Cup opener, according to Leah Williamson.
And for the 22-year-old defender there will be an air of familiarity about Shelley Kerr’s side with current Arsenal teammates Kim Little and Lisa Evans among the ranks as well as the soon-to-return Gunner Jen Beattie.
Williamson holds her temporary rivals in high esteem too, ranking midfielder Little as among the world’s best, while Beattie has been a serial trophy winner throughout her career.
But the time for pleasantries and meetings on the Nice promenade are over now for Williamson who insists she will not be contacting her Scottish opponents until after the game at the Allianz Riviera.
“They will definitely be feeling like the underdogs, but I think that with the respect we are giving them, we will be on level playing fields until that 90 minutes is up, and we will see who comes out on top,” said Williamson.
“Kim is one of the best players in the world and I see that every week at Arsenal – she is not an easy player to play against and on an international level it is different – we all know that.
“I have passed on a few tips and tricks about her, but I think everyone is quite aware of her and her nature – I haven’t told anything they don’t already know about her.
“I have the utmost respect for my Arsenal teammates and I know how good they are – I am sure the other girls will feel the same way too.
“We have done the analysis on the same players and it is a bizarre one really, I can’t believe it even got drawn out of the hat.
“For the neutral and the women’s football fan it would have to be an advantage though.
“Jen is a winner – she has won trophies with Manchester City and before that with Arsenal but until that game on Sunday we are still rivals and there is no friendship here yet.
“Now it is time for business and save friendships for after the game.”
Despite keeping her friends at arm’s length, Williamson won’t be alone for the tournament in France – instead she will have the full support of her family who recently featured in a BBC documentary following the journey of the Lionesses.
And the centre-back, who has been with Arsenal since the age of eight, sees the World Cup as the perfect thank you present for her supportive parents.
“This is one of the only ways that you can repay your parents for the commitment that they, and my brother, have shown to me,” she said.
“You can’t say thank you enough and you can’t give them that time back, but you can show them a better time in the future and with me and my Mum we are connected by supporting Arsenal.
“My Dad is a Spurs fan though, so England is our mutual ground and we are all massive England fans – my family is so patriotic, and I am sure they will love telling their friends all about it.”
Phil Neville’s Lionesses will bid for World Cup glory in France this summer with all their matches broadcast LIVE on BBC One