It was far easier going into these big matches as a player than it is as a pundit. Working on the tournament for the BBC, I’ve been more nervous than I ever was while playing. It’s something to do with the game being something that’s out of my control.
But I wore my England shirt to the opener against Austria and it has proved lucky so I will be resplendent in lucky shirt, lucky shorts, lucky charms, lucky bracelets and lucky earrings for tonight’s semi-final against Sweden. That’s all I can do to control the outcome of the match.
I expect it to be a nerve-racking affair. England had to dig deep against Spain in the quarter-final to come through and make it to this stage but we’re not getting carried away as that is all it is – a semi-final, and we’ve lost too many of those over the years.
It is time to get past the last four and I think the Euros can only be deemed a success if we do so.
The Spain game was not all about dazzling football that’s easy on the eye. We had to soak up a lot of pressure and were not the best team on the night but England found a way to win and that was the most important thing for me.
For the first time in the tournament we looked like we could concede goals and, as with the rest of the last-eight ties, the game was very close.
However, what we do have are match-winners off the bench, as demonstrated by Alessia Russo setting up Ella Toone for the all-important equaliser in Brighton.
But the big question for tonight is over whether manager Sarina Wiegman will change her starting line-up for the first time at the Euros.
Rachel Daly did not have the best game defensively against Spain and Alex Greenwood came on and played very well. Her left foot can be dangerous from set-pieces and that could be a straight swap tonight, but it is likely to be the only alteration.
Sarina did this five years ago when she won the trophy with the Netherlands – she knew her starting XI and didn’t change it. So what she’s doing here is very Wiegman-like. She has done it to great effect so far but everyone has to know their roles. The players who have come off the bench certainly do. It’s something you have to accept and buy into.
I have gone into tournaments as No.1 and I know how fulfilled that makes you feel, but I have also gone in as the back-up goalie and you know you are not going to be used.
You almost become an extra member of the coaching staff – it’s still an important role you play and England’s squad players look as if they have taken that on board.
I wouldn’t even call them substitutes as that has connotations of being ‘second-rate’. They are game-changers, players relied upon to make an impact.
This could be another long night but England have shown us they can come through this sort of test. Sweden are ranked No.2 in the world and will be desperate to make this the tournament from which they come away with gold instead of the recent silvers. They also have a very good record against us. In fact, England have won just two of nine previous meetings.
England must overcome a very good team if we are to face France or Germany in Sunday’s final, and Sarina will have to work her tactical magic. and.
This could be another long night but England can come through this sort of test
* Thanks to National Lottery players, over £50million has been invested into football in the last ten years benefiting the women’s and girls’ game by increasing participation and helping young players fulfil their potential. Investment into the Women’s Euros legacy includes £1million of National Lottery funding, invested through Sport England, to get more women playing the game in each host city
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