Fran Kirby says the record-breaking television viewing figure for England’s World Cup victory over Scotland on Sunday shows that those who dismiss the women’s game are “a minority”.
The 2-1 win in Nice was the UK’s most watched women’s football match of all time, according to the BBC, attracting a peak of 6.1million watching on television, and a 37.8 per cent share of the available audience.
England forward Kirby said: “I think we’re always fighting these people who are saying stuff but it just shows that it is a minority and there are many people out there that want us to do well.
“And ultimately we are playing for England, for our country, and to make the supporters back home proud.
“We’re not playing to try to show these people that people do care about women’s football, that’s not what we’re trying to do.
“We’re trying to win a World Cup for our country, and I think everyone who supports football can get behind that.
“Hopefully, we can continue to grow those figures and keep that minority a minority and really grow this sport.”
England dominated the first half of Sunday’s Group D opener as they led 2-0 before their levels dropped in the second, resulting in boss Phil Neville afterwards stressing the need for his team to “keep being ruthless.”
Kirby, who took a kick to the knee in the game but says she will be fit for Friday’s clash against Argentina in Le Havre, feels that while there is room for improvement, things need to be kept in perspective.
“We have spoken as a team now that it is the first game – we can’t get too ahead of ourselves, and we can’t criticise ourselves too much,” said the 25-year-old Chelsea player.
“We need to build momentum. At the previous World Cup (Canada 2015) we lost our first game, against France (1-0), and we went on to win a bronze medal.
“So we can’t dwell too much about our second-half performance but we know there’s room for improvement.”
Kirby was involved in the build-up to both England goals, providing the assist when Ellen White doubled the lead in the 40th minute.
The first goal was a Nikita Parris penalty awarded for handball following a VAR review, with referee Jana Adamkova reviewing the footage of Kirby’s cross striking Nicola Docherty’s arm.
Regarding that incident, Kirby said: “I kind of understood what was going on a lot more than the girls – I think some of them thought we were having a drinks break!
“As soon as I hit the cross, I knew it hit her hand, and from the conversations that we had previously, I knew probably it was going to get given as a penalty.
“It was good because then, when everything was going on, the uncertainty, I could go over to Nikita and basically say ‘This is going to be a penalty, make sure you’re ready’, so you’re not in that emotion when the decision gets given, you can accept it now and get ready to take the penalty, which she did fantastically.”
Argentina began their campaign on Monday with a 0-0 draw against Japan, securing their first point at a Women’s World Cup finals. The South Americans are ranked 37th in the world, 34 places below England.
Kirby said: “We managed to catch a bit of the second half because our flight was a little bit delayed, and we were really impressed with Argentina, how hard they were working, and you could see after the game the emotion they had, how much it meant to them.
“They are going to use that emotion and drive coming into our game, so we need to make sure we’re fully on it and give them the respect they deserve.”