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England Women set course for World Cup success

England Women arrived in France on Tuesday as they prepared to get their World Cup campaign under way.

Boss Phil Neville and his 23-player squad, having flown from Heathrow, came through arrivals at Nice Cote d’Azur Airport around 6pm local time.

There were plenty of smiles and laughter among the group, who are staying at Nice’s Radisson Blu hotel.

England and Manchester City captain Steph Houghton was part of a quartet of players who had a selfie taken with a passer-by, and the whole squad posed for a picture in front of huge letters outside the airport that spelt out #ILoveNice.

England were then welcomed with a reception at their hotel.

The players and coaching staff were cheered off their coach by children from the College Andre Malraux in Cagnes-sur-Mer.

Richard Papazian, representing the Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi, made a welcome speech outside the hotel, along with Sandrine Simonnet from the local organising committee, and ‘Three Lions’ was played as the Lionesses gathered for official photographs.

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As well as all 23 players Neville named in the squad last month, 19-year-old Manchester City goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck, who has two senior caps, was also with the party.

The Women’s World Cup starts on Friday and England open their campaign with Sunday’s Group D clash against Scotland at the Allianz Riviera, also known as the Stade de Nice.

Twelve members of Neville’s 23, including Houghton, were part of the squad that came third at the 2015 edition under his predecessor Mark Sampson, England’s best performance in the competition to date.

Ranked third in the world and winners of the four-team SheBelieves Cup for the first time earlier this year, they are among the pre-tournament favourites.

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Just prior to them taking their flight on Tuesday, individualised messages of support for each of England’s players were put on display across the country.

Messages written by friends, family members, teachers and coaches appeared in locations special to each player, from where they grew up to the location of their current club.

The message for Houghton from her cousin Amy, on display on Albion Way in Salford, not far from her club, reads: “From our local park – the Welfare – to the World Cup, you’ve done us proud. You are the most inspiring and resilient person and we love you so much. Good luck!”

The one for forward Toni Duggan, just outside Liverpool Lime Street station in her home town, is from the Barcelona player’s mother, reading: “Proud is an understatement! From a little girl in Everton to a name known worldwide, you are an inspiration! Everyone in Liverpool is willing you and the Lionesses to do well.”

England go into the tournament having suffered a surprise 1-0 loss to New Zealand in their final World Cup warm-up match. That result at Brighton’s Amex Stadium on Saturday came after a 1-0 defeat to Canada and victories over Spain (2-1) and Denmark (2-0) in their three other ‘Road to France Series’ matches.