TheFA.com’s Glenn Lavery blogs from inside the England Women’s camp ahead of Euro 2013
After a qualifying campaign that began nearly two years ago, the wait is almost over.
On Friday, England’s Women will kick-off their Euro 2013 crusade against Spain.
Hope Powell’s side went unbeaten on their way to Sweden, winning six and drawing two of their eight matches. In fact, they haven’t lost a competitive qualifier for over ten years, when they were edged out by France in a play-off for the 2003 World Cup.
Women’s football is clearly on the rise in England and the national team’s progress has been integral to this positive upturn. More women and girls are playing the game than ever before, 1.4m. The ultimate aim is to catapult women’s football behind only the men’s game in terms of team sport participation. A good showing at this tournament will certainly help with that goal, as will the continued growth of The FA WSL which starts up again after the Euros.
The Swedish media have been keen to quiz Hope and her players on whether England can go one better than 2009, when they finished runners-up to perennial winners Germany. But the team’s mantra remains the same. They will take it one game at a time. And their training and preparation for the Spain game has been as thorough as ever. It is all about getting off to the best possible start.
The squad are now settled in their Linköping base, some 120 miles south of Stockholm, where they will play all three of their Group C games. They arrived here last Friday following the rather sobering 4-1 defeat to Sweden in Uddevalla. And although that loss ended their 16-month unbeaten run, the belief among the players is that it came at the right time – better in a warm-up game than the tournament proper. It also served as a bit of a shock to the system, a wake-up call, if you will. The players have been reminded how it feels to lose and they don’t like it.
When any England team is in a major tournament, there is often a lot of rhetoric about players being bored. Having been privy to a Three Lions’ schedule at two European U17 Championship Finals, in 2009 and 2010, and the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, I know only too well how important it is for players to be able to unwind from time to time.
The focus is always on the football, from the minute they wake-up to the minute they go to sleep. But it is only healthy to switch off from the game for an hour or two and the players have enjoyed numerous trips to various coffee shops (Swedes love their coffee), a meal out on Monday night as well as a round of mini golf. Shopping has been high on Jess Clarke and Sophie Bradley’s agenda and the man-made beach outside the team hotel makes for an ideal spot for rest and recuperation.
The hope is there will be plenty of other opportunities for some ‘downtime’ between now and 28 July, the date of the final, but for now all that is in England thoughts is the Spain game.
UEFA and the Local Organising Committee are confident this tournament will be the best-ever Women’s Euros in terms of reach and legacy. They have already sold 107,000 match tickets and have accepted requests from over 700 different media outlets.
The platform is there. It is now up to England to grasp the opportunity.