If you are looking for inspiration as you prepare to watch England in their must win match against France tonight then read on...
England skipper and experienced head Casey Stoney gave us a blistering pep talk yesterday. As far as the 31-year-old is concerned, the England we will see out in Linkoping Arena tonight will be one that gives everything on the pitch, that will take no prisoners, that will not hide. The Lincoln Ladies player is pragmatic enough to admit that we haven't seen the best of England yet. But she hopes that if they can get it right against France, the tournament could turn in their favour. Here‘s what she had to say…
On the situation they are in:
Toni gave us a lifeline the other day, one that we probably didn’t know we would have until the 93rd minute. I remember it hitting the crossbar and at that time I thought this is not going to be our tournament, it’s not going to be our night but when she scored it gave the whole team a boost really, but we can do all the talking off the pitch, it’s what we do on it that counts.
On her own fitness:
I hadn’t played a lot coming into the tournament but I’d like to think that I’m getting better. The Spain game I openly admit that I was nowhere near where I needed to be, I made the wrong decision on the first goal. I thought against Russia that I was reasonably happy with my performance, probably needed to move the ball a bit quicker and I’m hoping that the third game will be even better so yes, the legs are fine.
On the challenge of France:
Delie up front she is a big strong character, likes to make runs on the shoulder, she drops in and her movement is good, so physically we need to be up there with it. They’ve got pace down both wings whether they play Le Sommer or Thomis who is probably the quickest thing I’ve seen on two legs. And they’ve got a lot of creativity on the pitch so we can’t afford to switch off.
On England’s best:
You haven’t seen us at our best. I’d like to think that we are going to deliver. I can sit here and say we will do this or that but it needs to be shown on the pitch now and whatever team Hope goes with I’m absolutely in the belief that we can up our performances 50-60 per cent. We won our opening game in Euro 2005 and went out in the group stage so this is the important one.
On changes to the starting XI:
It’s Hope’s decision. The last two performances have given a lot of people things to talk about and we have been heavily criticised and probably rightly so but I’d like to think that we will get an opportunity to put it right.
On having played France many times:
They have got lots of different players but we’ve played them all so we can prepare whatever their selection and can do a job. We can’t go out with any fear because if we do we’re going home. We played them in the World Cup, they didn’t beat us in open play, 2-2 in November, played them to qualify for the World Cup 2007 and that was a draw as well so there’s not much between the teams.
On France therefore having a hang up about England:
I hope so. That will be psychologically in our favour. Hope said after we played them in November they came off the pitch and couldn’t believe how physical we were and how much we got into them. It’s going to be the same again [today]. There are no prisoners, there’s no hiding, the XI that start and the players that come on are going to give it absolutely everything and we are going to leave nothing out there and as long as we give everything and try our hardest then I don’t think anyone can ask for more.
On blowing out the cobwebs in the last three games:
Myself I felt the cobwebs in the Sweden game because it was my first 45 minutes of football [since getting injured] and I think sometimes opening games of tournaments can be difficult. You saw Sweden, you saw Germany, unfortunately we lost. Had we drawn against Spain I don’t think we’d have gone into the second game as low in confidence but we had a fragile confidence and when they scored against the run of play it is hard to mentally get people back on track and I actually thought for 25 minutes we played some really good stuff against Russia and that’s what we need to remember.
On not having luck in the two games:
We hit the crossbar, the post, you do need luck in tournaments and hopefully [tonight] someone will be looking down on us and shine a bit of luck.
On whether Hope Powell could do a Bruno Bini and write poetry and sing songs to her team:
I’ll ask her, I’m not sure she’ll be willing. He actually came out and said it’s not about winning your first game it’s about winning your last and that’s what it is for us.
On whether they can build momentum:
Yes. It’s a big game, probably the biggest in my career and one I’m looking forward to it because there’s been enough negative press to give me the ammunition I need to be able to play well.
On her role as captain:
The first thing I do after a game is question myself and think what can I do better. Spain, I hold my hands up, not good enough. Russia, a bit better but still not good enough. For me, as a captain I am looking at the best performance I can possibly give for my team and I’m going to ask that from every player on the pitch and if we can get to the quarters, who knows what could happen.
On having players like Toni Duggan and Kelly Smith come on:
Toni came on, fresh legs, energy and full of running and it’s quite infectious when that happens and it spreads throughout the team and then Kelly came on and I was like, injury, what injury?! She was at centre half, right midfield, left midfield, give me the ball and that’s infectious too and she wants to play and wants to get on and it’s great to see. You know what, it’s not just those two, we’ve got some fantastic talent on the bench that Hope can call on at any moment and it’s great to have that in reserve although we don’t know the team yet so who knows who is going to start.
Neither are workable or likely at present but hypothetically, would you prefer a more strict salary cap in the FA WSL OR should centrally contracted England players (that receive salaries from The FA) be allocated more evenly around WSL1 clubs?