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Football - 09. September 2009.

Where do I begin?

By Faye White - Tuesday, 08 September, 2009

Faye White reflects on a whirlwind few days for the England Women's team.

Well where do I begin? It’s so difficult to put into words my thoughts and emotions of the events that have unfolded over the last four days or so.

The past weekend has gone by in what I can only describe as a blur. It’s been a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows for me personally and for the team.

Our quarter final against Finland seems so long ago. Since then I have flown back to London to have an operation on my fracture and dislocated cheekbone, then rushed back on Saturday evening to be part of the squad again in time for the semi-final and  to witness the jubilant scenes after the girls qualified for the Final of a major tournament.

We started the Finland game brightly with Eni finishing off a well worked  move to help us settle into the game and silence the near-capacity crowd that obviously provided Finland with some extra momentum.

Just five minutes before half-time I went up for a header and after connecting with the ball I felt a crack on the side of my face.  My initially feeling was that it didn’t feel right but I said to Pippa, our medic, that I thought I could carry on. But she said it might be cracked and after trying to jog to the sideline to go back on, a sharp shooting pain told me my game was over.

Although I managed to watch from the bench I couldn’t remember too much about the second half, so had to watch it again on DVD a few days later. Eni’s second goal was really special. To be able to produce an individual piece of skill like that, when we had just conceded, to put us back in the driving seat was unbelievable and deserving of the Player of the Match accolade on its own.

Overall it was a great team performance that improved on our previous games and showed our resilience. Once again, Katie Chapman proved titanic. She showed just how important she is for us, after starting the game strongly in midfield, she then showed the same qualities when asked to drop back to centre-half for the rest of the game and she did a great job.

Less then an hour after the game, X-rays at the local hospital confirmed the damage to my cheekbone and that I would need an operation to fix it as soon as possible. We had just reached the semi-final for the first time in years but with this news my tournament sounded like it was over.

However, when I got back to the hotel I was told that it had been arranged for me to have the operation the next day, by the same surgeon that did John Terry’s back in 2007; the same surgeon who had repaired the broken nose I sustained during the quarter final in the 2007 World Cup. I would be in good hands and back with the squad by Sunday, with a chance to be back in contention should we progress further, albeit perhaps having to wear a protective mask!

Sunday’s semi-final against Holland was, without doubt, the most stressful and nerve-wrecking game I’ve never witnessed since being part of this England team. Sitting there on the bench, unable to have any impact, and seeing the girls controlling the possession and trying to break down a team that we knew beforehand would settle for extra-time and even penalties as their way of progressing to the Final, was so frustrating.

We knew that we would be able to produce the better football and when Kelly grabbed the first goal I thought that we would go on to score more as Holland would have to abandon their defensive tactics and attack. But credit to them, they hit back just three minutes later and forced the game into extra-time.

However, just before extra-time got underway the whole squad got into one big huddle and you could sense the desire and belief amongst everyone that we knew we were simply not going to miss out on this opportunity.

The passion was there to see on everyone’s faces and in their voices, and it transferred itself into the performance in extra-time. We could, and perhaps should, have converted three great chances in the first-half of extra-time before Crouchy [Jill Scott] grabbed the winner, sealing our place in the Final and, when the whistle went it sparked scenes of pure joy and elation from us all.

Monday was a rest day for the girls that played or got on, and a blow-out session for those that did not. Attention then turned to the second semi-final between Germany and Norway and I’m sure the whole hotel could have heard us screaming and shouting at the TV! It turned out to be a 3-1 win for the Germans who we will now face in the Final.

This will be the biggest game of our careers and we cannot wait to get going. Now we know who our opponents are, our preparations can begin properly. We travel to Helsinki today and we have to focus on the job in hand. Germany are a great side and they are looking for their fifth European title in a row, so of course we know it won’t be easy. We respect them, certainly, but we definitely do not fear them. We have got better and better as the tournament has progressed and we hope we can keep that going on Thursday. I still don’t think we have hit top form and there would be no better time to peak than on Thursday
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