June 17, 2024

Women’s World Cup 2023: ‘There’s not a lot of pressure on us’, says Republic of Ireland striker Ruesha Littlejohn

Ruesha Littlejohn made her senior international debut in 2012

Republic of Ireland striker Ruesha Littlejohn believes her side are short on expectations as they prepare to kick off their World Cup B campaign against Australia on Thursday.

The Republic are competing in their first World Cup and will also face Canada and Nigeria.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of pressure on us. I don’t think people expect a lot from us,” Littlejohn said.

“We want to show people what we are capable of and play to our strengths.”

She said: “It is our first competition, it will be difficult, we will have to weather a few storms and stick together.”

Littlejohn, 33, has scored six goals in 72 senior internationals and feels confident that she and her team-mates will be in action against the co-hosts in their opening game of the tournament.

“I’ve played in front of a few big crowds but not 80,000. I’m excited, I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.

“There will be nerves but you just have to not let the emotions and nerves get the best of you. I think I will rise to the occasion.”

Australia are 10th in the FIFA rankings, 12 places above their opponents at Stadium Australia.

“It’s getting to crunch time now. We’re just doing what we need to do to be ready for the game and be in the best place for game day.

“We’ve been waiting for this moment for so long, wanting to be at a big tournament, and now it’s finally here.

“We’re opening the World Cup, which is great, but at the same time we’re not really thinking about it. We’re relaxed, the squad is in a good place.

“We don’t want to be too nervous a few days before the competition starts.”

Littlejohn, recently released by Women’s Super League side Aston Villaforward Sam Kerr says he is a particular threat to Vera Pauw’s side in Thursday’s final.

“A lot of their goals come from crosses in the box and they have threats everywhere, stars all over the pitch, and Sam Kerr is lethal in the area.

“I haven’t seen many girls who can control the ball the way she can. We have to try to keep her quiet.”

‘My journey was not simple’

Littlejohn, who was born in Glasgow, played for Scotland at youth level but after being excluded from their national set-up he chose to play for the Republic of Ireland, finding that she was eligible through her grandparents’ heritage.

She claims she was not selected for the senior Scotland squad because of his behavior.

“You always have that dream that you will end up here [at a World Cup] but my journey was not simple, many due to my own choices in life that were not always the best.

“At the same time I wouldn’t change it. That’s my journey and you learn as you get older. I wouldn’t really change how I am. You learn from your mistakes.”

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