Veteran England striker Karen Walker looks forward to Monday night's crucial Wor
Veteran England striker Karen Walker looks forward to Monday night's crucial World Cup play-off match versus Iceland
Veteran England striker Karen Walker will go into Monday night's crucial World Cup play-off thriving on the added pressure that has been put on her due to the withdrawal of fellow strikers Kelly Smith and Angela Banks.
Walker told TheFA.com yesterday after the squads first training session, "I am one of those players who likes the added pressure of being captain, you get that every time you play for England. The pressures are from all over so a little bit more I won't mind. I am the type of player where the big games don't faze me anymore. I've been about a bit so I tend to enjoy those occasions and the added pressure tends to bring a little more out."
The Three Lions will need Walker to be on her game as they attempt to get the result in Iceland that will help set them up nicely for the return in Birmingham next Sunday. And Walker will know more than most what will be required in Reykjavik as the 33 year-old has faced Iceland on a number of occasions.
"I've played against them quite a few times, I think maybe 4 or 6 times, I've never lost. They were physical more than technical but I think after speaking to Sammy [Britton] and Burkey [Karen Burke] they've actually come on technically as well. They have always been quite physical but in the past we have always beaten them so hopefully that will keep going."
The fact that Walker has never lost against Iceland could prove to be a good omen for the Three Lions and the Doncaster Belles striker will not hesitate to do all that it takes to get a result, including getting herself knocked out. When asked about what she remembers of the previous games, Walker responded:
"I actually got knocked out in one of the games and scored an own goal in the same game. But I managed to get one in the other end and we won 2-1 so that was alright. I think they have been tough games from what I can remember."
The story has also come full circle from 1994 when England again had to beat Iceland in order to qualify for the World Cup Finals, a game that Walker remembers.
"I think one of the times I played against Iceland was a World Cup qualifier. I think we beat Iceland to qualify for the World Cup in Sweden in 1995. We only beat them 1-0 then, Marieanne scored the winner and that was a very close game and we are back here again in the same scenario."
Walker knows, however that the absence of Katie Chapman, due to pregnancy, is a big blow for the team. But she remained philosophical about the news and saw Chapman's loss as someone else's gain.
"Any player of that quality is going to be missed without a doubt. She is a fantastic player but its gone and done and I'm sure that whoever is bought in to play in her position, it'll be a chance for them to make a mark on the game. And that might be good because it brings something else out of you, they will be hungry for the game. Obviously you can't say that she won't be missed, she is a super player, but I'm sure that whoever comes in will do well.
Despite the absentees, Walker understands that the team just has to get on with it. For Walker, this is one of the biggest games of her career and she knows that, with time running out for her, she must do all she can to make sure that the Three Lions make it to China next summer.
"World Cup qualifiers, you can't get bigger than that. It is a really big thing for me. I think the youngsters, 18 or 19, they know they have got maybe 3 or 4 World Cups to go. This is definitely going to be my last attempt to play in a World Cup Finals and I'll be extremely disappointed if we don't get there and possibly a massive end to what has been a long career. It would be fantastic, a dream come true really but we will just have to see."
If England are to progress then it is imperative that they get a good result in Reykjavik that will leave them with a great chance when they get Iceland back to St Andrews next Sunday. And the confident Walker has already built up a mental picture of what is required on Monday night.
"The ideal scenario would be to go out there and win 3-0, then get the home game and just put a bit of a show on for the crowd. That is how I have written it in my head but I'm sure that is not how it is to be, but if it is that would be great.
"If we get the win then that would just be unbelievable but realistically you've got to go out there and not let any goals in, simple as that.
"If we don't let any goals in when we are out there then we've got a massive chance of going through without a doubt but if we get the win or we get a couple of goals then we are laughing."
If Walker can demonstrate the form that has seen her notch up her impressive international scoring record then it will be Yorkshire laughter that you will be hearing all the way back to St Andrews.
Tickets for the home game against Iceland are now on sale from the Birmingham City ticket hotline 0121 772 0101. Entry will be priced at £3 for adults and £1 for children before the day, with prices going up to £5/£1 on matchday. There will also be a special family ticket, priced at £5, for up to two adults and three children. Special group booking rates are available to clubs and schools wishing to attend the game. To request a booking form or for more information, please call 020 8563 9147.