With just six weeks to go until England’s opening game of UEFA Women’s EURO 2013, Ellen White has hit arguably the richest vein of form in her international career. Having got on the scoresheet in four of England’s last five games, the Arsenal striker is now hoping the Three Lionesses can push on and leave Sweden with medals draped around their necks.
Having reached the quarter-finals of both major tournaments she has appeared at, coupled with England finishing as runners-up at EURO 2009, she now believes - with the rub of the green - they are in position to finally go all the way. However, there is one key factor she would like to see added to the upcoming campaign: “A little bit of luck would be nice [laughs]!
“I do think you need a lot of luck on the way and everyone needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet,” said the 24-year-old. “We’ve got a great squad, so hopefully everyone sticks together as a team, executes the game plan that we’ve been given and has no fear.”
Big time experience
It is a lack of fear built off the back of a side packed with experience. Of the team that won the Cyprus Cup in March, where White was joint-top scorer, 15 represented Great Britain at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament at London 2012 and 17 featured at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ a year earlier. White’s belief now is that the taste of victory could be all England need to fulfil their potential.
“Once you get that win and know how it feels then that normally drives you on. That’s what happened with the USA, Japan and such like, so hopefully we can replicate what they’ve done beforehand and hopefully do that in Sweden.” With six major pieces of silverware to her name since joining Arsenal it's fair to say White has learnt a thing or two about winning.
Even so, and despite going through the rigours of tournament football before, White is quite clear on whether EURO 2013 will be an altogether more relaxing venture. “I don’t know about more relaxed! Obviously I can draw on the experiences and know what it felt like, but I get nervous for quite a lot of things,” she admitted. “I’m sure I’ll probably still be nervous! I’m just hoping to get into the squad and I’m sure it’ll be an amazing experience going to Sweden.”
White acknowledges they have a tough set of games to greet them in Scandinavia. Group C pits England against France - who knocked them out of Germany 2011 on penalties, as well as Spain and Russia. Currently ranked fourth in Europe in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking is obviously cause for optimism in the Three Lionesses camp, but White is not allowing herself to get complacent about the task in hand.
“Obviously it is a pretty tough group; playing France again will not be easy,” the former Leeds Carnegie player said. “A lot of their players play for Lyon, so are regularly training with one another, day in, day out, week in, week out, so they are a very tough opposition, but then again they beatable.
“We definitely want to turn what happened in 2009 [defeat to Germany in the final] into a gold medal. We need to take the experience of what happened in 2009 and drive us forward to doing well in Sweden.”
Women’s football has come off the back of a big year, with London 2012 proving a spectacular draw for fans. Great Britain won all three of their group games, but the pinnacle of the tournament for them came in the 1-0 victory over Brazil, in front of a packed Wembley Stadium, which White was privileged enough to experience.
“We were really excited and happy when we played the Millennium Stadium against Cameroon and New Zealand to get 25,000 fans there,” White recalled. “I don’t think anybody expected the amount of people we did get at Wembley, it was such an amazing feeling to know that 70,000 people were cheering for us. It doesn’t happen very often as we’re more used to having the majority of fans against us.
“To go Wembley and step out on the pitch, thinking of all the great players that had been there, seeing the changing rooms and then playing there was an amazing experience, and I think all the girls felt the same.”
With spectacles such as the Olympics, which saw 80,000 fans attend the women's final, White believes there is a swell of interest in women’s football in England and abroad, which she first saw at the global finals in 2011. “We did really well at the World Cup in Germany and the crowds they had there – the organisers did an amazing job,” she said.
“The whole experience out there was amazing, that was my first senior tournament and it was done so well, with such great fans and we got some really good coverage too, we were just a bit disappointed to get knocked out to France. Off the back of that, the Olympics exploded even more and it kind of captured the nation, so hopefully it can continue.”