Obviously I didn’t receive a phone call from Mr Hodgson himself, but I did play my part in a great team effort beating Ukraine last week that puts the women’s team one step closer to qualifying for the World Cup next year in Canada.
Ukraine was billed as our toughest opponent in our group to date. They are a very organized team and hard to break down. They also picked up a point when they played Wales recently, so we knew this would be no 9-0 scoreline like our previous game against Montenegro.
With this being a short get together unlike other times, a lot of this camp was spent in the meeting room with Mark Sampson and his coaching staff. Mark has stressed that every time we come together as an England team we need to do everything that we can to make sure we are improving as a team. Mark talked to us about the change of formation he wanted to implement. For the last 15 years England have played a 4-3-3 formation. In this game we changed to a diamond.
The game of football changes so much that a good team has to be able to adapt to certain situations and different formations. Come next year, ‘if’ we get to the World Cup it will be crucial for us, as a team, to have as many different weapons in our locker. Whether that be players, tactics, mental toughness or having the best recovery methods better then the other teams – you name it, you need it all. Mark is trying to give us all these tools needed for us to be able to get to a World Cup with the belief and confidence that we can make something happen for us as a team.
All that being said we put all the meetings into practice in the game. It was great that our strikers Aluko and Dowie got two goals apiece. After a first half that saw Ukraine do as exactly as we thought (bank up, being very ridged in their defending as a team) it was great to tweak a few things at half time and come out and get two early goals. All in all it was a good 4-0 win with Mark telling us to go away and analyze the game as a group of players and be ready to give feedback and input to the team on the next meet up.
I have had no time to reflect and analyze the England game as yet, because it was one important game to another for me. We (Arsenal) were playing Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final. What a game it was as well.
I think going into the game, it’s the first time in years that an Arsenal ladies team have been the underdogs. With a strong Chelsea squad that have made a lot of signings during off-season, a team that had yet to lose this season filled with confidence, it was no surprise that people’s money was on a blue win.
But you can never write the underdog off though right? That’s exactly what we proved. After fighting our way back into the game after being behind twice, we managed to take the game to extra time with a 2-2 scoreline and a 25-yard wonder strike from Kelly Smith.
After 30 minutes of extra time and another four goals, it’s no wonder fans were tweeting it had been the best game they’ve seen in a very long time. I’m just thrilled that I was on the winning side when the game finished with a 5-3 score line.
Being in a FA Cup final will never get old – if anything, you know what it feels like and you want it all the time. It has always been a showpiece event for the women’s game in this country and, like I said in the opening to my blog, I have been walking around with a huge smile on my face, because it feels simply amazing to know that Arsenal ladies will be in the FA Cup final once again.
FA cup final to be played at MK Dons 1st June 4:30pm
Arsenal v Everton (Tickets on sale now)
See you there!
Could it be FA Cup success for both the men’s and the women’s sides at Arsenal? Could England be one of the favourites at next year’s World Cup in Canada?