Four years on from European Championship final heartbreak against Germany, England Ladies are back with revenge on the agenda in Sweden. Hope Powell’s side begin their Group C campaign on July 12 against Spain in Linköping before facing Russia and France for a place in the quarter-finals.
It’s a fifth major tournament for raiding right-back Alex Scott, the Arsenal Ladies star just three appearances shy of a 100th international cap. Scott remembers 2009’s disappointment all too well but, with a fresh batch of youngsters and valuable tournament experience in the bag, the 28-year-old tells FourFourTwo things will be different this time around…
The Women's Super League has taken a break ahead of the European Championship – how will that affect England’s preparations for the tournament?
I think the whole format change, going from a winter league to a summer league, was to help with the build-up to tournaments. With the winter league you didn’t get a break, but now we’ve just come back after having time off. But we also have match time under our belts and should be fresher going into tournaments. Fitness-wise we should be peaking as players going into the Euros.
How excited are you going into the tournament? There seems to be a buzz around women’s football right now…
I’m really excited. Coming off the Olympics, the thrill around women’s football at the moment is great. Everyone is getting on board and getting excited about it. Hopefully I get selected – my place isn’t guaranteed yet – but everyone is really looking forward to it.
What changes have you noticed after the Olympics?
I think there’s more interest from the media – people are getting behind us, getting to know individual stories and wanting to actually follow teams now. Generally, from the feedback we’re getting on Twitter and people in the streets, they’re interested. You get, ‘Oh yeah I watched Team GB last year’, whereas before it was ‘Women’s football? No, I’m not really interested’. People are backing it now, and it’s great.
Arsenal Ladies have been successful for a long time, but can it be damaging having so many players from one team – six – in the England squad?
I think it’s different to the men – they’re only together for a limited amount of time – whereas as a national team I think we’ve all come through the ranks together. So we’re friends even though we play for different teams. We have just come back from Cyprus where we spent two weeks together, so even though there’s some Arsenal players, some Everton players, we do actually get on as a team. Obviously you’re going to be friends with certain people more than others. But as a group we have been together for a long time so we are naturally close-knit.
England lost 6-2 to Germany in the 2009 final – how much does that spur you on to go one better? Does the defeat still sit badly?
Yes, it does. Looking back, we were in the game for 60 minutes but I think that’s where Germany went on to show their experience. They got one more goal, killed us off, our heads dropped and they continued to score. The manner of defeat, even though it was the first time we as players had ever got a final, made us gutted. So this year we’re looking to get to that final and put some wrongs to right. I think we have the experience because we’ve been at another World Cup and most of the group played at the Olympics. Now that core has been in major championships there should be no excuses.
Rather than your heads dropping this time, can you learn how to cope with it?
Absolutely. As an England team we always have to look back and analyse our performances. You can see our heads did go down and the game plan went out the window – we were running everywhere trying to score goals while some were trying to defend, and they are lessons we have learned going into this year’s championship. We’re far more experienced.
France look the toughest test in Group C – how does the land lie there?
France are a great team with great individuals and we’re in a tough group. The first thing, definitely, is that we need to progress out of it. After the Olympics we played them in a friendly last November and drew 2-2 – we were two-nil up and they came back. Every time we play them there’s something but hopefully at the Euros, when it matters, we will produce the goods.
Are there any teams that England need to watch out for?
A lot of people aren’t talking about Spain in our group but technically, just like the men’s team, they are very good. We have played them a couple of times before and just scraped it to the World Cup, and in the European Championship it could have gone either way. So we are definitely in a tough group.
Are there any players that you are looking out for?
When you look at the French team, there is [midfielder] Louisa Necib. She’s rated as the next big thing in women’s football.
Who’s the toughest opponent you’ve tackled?
With Germany it used to be Birgit Prinz – she was like a robot! A tall, powerful striker - but she won’t be at this championship, she has retired. I suppose it would be the French, some of them are so skilful. When you look at players like Necib and Camille Abily, they’re going to be a tough unit to defend against.
The Olympics added another level of team spirit – are you stronger than you’ve ever been?
When you look at the squad now our strength in depth is fantastic. Looking back at the last European Championship or World Cup they were strong squads, but now you look at the youngsters coming through – Toni Duggan has burst onto the scene at Everton, while Jordan Nobbs has done great over the last couple of weeks in Cyprus. There’s youth and core experience, and I think this year will be special for us. Now it’s just about putting the final details into place.
What will the Euros show the watching world?
I think it will let you know where women’s football needs to be, especially with the BBC having rights to all the games. It’s down to us as players now to really push it on, get to that final and get the public behind us. But actually winning something will take it to another level. It was a missed opportunity in the Olympics really, we felt that as a team we should have at least medalled and it was disheartening losing to Canada in the quarter-finals.
From a personal point of view, what are your goals from the European Championship?
To get to that final again, I want a medal. Individually you just want a great championship. People talk about me as one of the best female right-backs so I want to go in there, have a good tournament and hopefully cement that.
As a player, what difference does a bigger crowd make?
So far, when there has been a big crowd it has been quite positive - aside from the 2009 final when most were cheering on the Germans. But that made us more determined to make them quiet. When we levelled it up, the crowd was so quiet and that gave us a buzz because we knew we were doing the right thing. The Olympics, though, when we had that home support, was just fantastic. Walking out at Wembley when the whole crowd is singing the national anthem gives you goose bumps. All of the players just wanted to show what we were about.
If you were to score the winner in a final, what sort of celebration would you do?
I’ve been slated for my celebrations in the past! It’s more the shock that I’ve scored that I don’t do anything. I just do the old Alan Shearer finger point, so I’m definitely going to have work on something - maybe a little dance.
Are there any other right-backs in the game that you admire?
I love Dani Alves. I’ve watched a lot of him playing for Barcelona and I like an attacking right-back. I like to watch Ashley Cole as well – he has been so consistent for England and hasn’t really got the credit he deserves. But Alves is my favourite, I’m not going to fight on that!