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Duggan targeting World Cup glory to boost Women’s Super League

Toni Duggan believes success for England at this summer’s World Cup will help swell Women’s Super League attendances.

The average attendance for WSL matches is currently 937, considerably short of the Football Association’s target of 2,020 when it launched ‘Gameplan for Growth’, its four-year strategy for women’s and girls’ football, in 2017.

A crowd of over 60,000 watched Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano last month, while a week later 39,000 saw Juventus beat Fiorentina 1-0 at the Allianz Stadium.

Barcelona and England forward Duggan feels in terms of popularity the women’s game in England is playing catch up, but a successful World Cup would help close the gap.

“Hopefully (we’re) not too far because we seem to get it right for FA Cup finals, but we can’t seem to get it right for league fixtures,” said Duggan, who will line-up against her Barcelona team-mates for England against Spain at Swindon’s County Ground on Tuesday.

“It doesn’t happen every single week in Spain, but it’s happening a lot more and that’s a positive for the women’s game.

“We’ve reached an unbelievable standard at the minute. Hopefully (England) can have some success in the summer and we can build from there.”

Duggan, 27, joined Barcelona from Manchester City two years ago and the big crowds were part of the attraction.

“I’ve been there two years now and to see the strides that have been made already is amazing,” she said.

“Obviously, it’s passing on globally because Juventus were next up and they’ve done the same. Hopefully it will be England next and they’ll do the same for a league game.”

England beat Spain the last time they met in a group game at Euro 2017 on their way to a fourth-place finish.

Duggan, who scored Barcelona’s second goal against Atletico, said she has enjoyed the banter with her club-mates during the build-up to Tuesday’s friendly.

“I’m always bragging, always laughing with my Spain team-mates at Barcelona, saying I’ll take 30 per cent possession and two goals – a win is a win. It’s football,” she added.

“They’ve been keeping it low key, but I’m really looking forward to it. It should be a great game, great for the fans. A great build up to the World Cup.”

England captain Steph Houghton has withdrawn from the squad due to a groin injury sustained in Friday’s 1-0 defeat to Canada.

The Manchester City defender has joined Chelsea forward Fran Kirby (knee) and goalkeeper Carly Telford on the sidelines.

Telford has withdrawn with concussion after taking a shot in the face from point-blank range during training.

The clash against Spain is the second of four ‘Road to France Series’ World Cup warm-up matches for England.

They also take on Denmark at Walsall’s Banks’s Stadium on May 25, and New Zealand at Brighton’s Amex Stadium a week later before they play Scotland in their opening World Cup group game in Nice on June 9.