I refuse to sing It’s Coming Home until the final whistle. I just can’t do it, I’m worried I’ll tempt fate. Even when England were 4-0 up with 10 minutes to go against Sweden at Bramall Lane on Tuesday and the crowd started singing it, I was like: sshhh everyone, you’re going to jinx it!
It goes without saying that Sunday’s final will be a tighter, nervier affair. Germany have looked so strong this tournament: so functional, so efficient, so ruthless.
As an England player, you become aware of the rivalry with Germany at quite a young age. They’re one of the top teams at every single age group and I think the rivalry stems from how elite they are and the fact they’ve had that top setup for so many years.
We’ve been on the end of some drubbings against Germany at youth level. The first start I made for the Under 17s, we lost 7-2 to Germany, but then a few months later we beat them 2-1, and it was honestly one of the best days in my football career. Beating Germany is such a highlight and a statement because they have such an aura of being so dominant in the women’s game.
Lena Oberdorf was a key figure in that 7-2 experience. I’ve played her a few times at youth level and she always stood out an absolute mile. She had such good game intelligence and she read the game so well, but was also physically so dominant and technically perfect. She was absolutely everywhere; whenever we had a breakaway she had somehow got back to sweep up with a last ditch tackle.
You see that in how Oberdorf plays today; in the semi final she broke up so many of France’s attacks and some of her passing was ridiculous. It’s been really fun to watch her excelling at this tournament, partly because she’s so talented in so many facets of her game, but partly because it makes me feel better about some of the experiences I had coming up against her at youth level!
Oberdorf and Sara Dabritz are constantly ratting about in midfield for Germany, and this is so influential to the way they break up play and disrupt the rhythm of the opposition. This is where Keira Walsh could be really important for England. She has the ability to find the little gaps and unlock even the most well organised and defensively drilled sides.
Keira makes it as look as if she has all day to play a pass when there could be five players around her. Being sat in the stands this season, I’ve really been able to appreciate her incredible passing ability. She’ll play a pass that I’ve not even seen with my bird’s eye view. I just think: how on earth have you first of all spotted that and then executed it with the perfect weight and the perfect trajectory?
As a fullback, I’m constantly on the receiving end of one of her switches of play to get the winger in behind. You know it’s coming, but it’s so perfect that irrespective of how well you position yourself and you track and you drop and you watch the flight of the ball, she just lands it bang on the feet of the winger. There’s nothing you can do to stop it because her technical ability to weight the pass and place it perfectly is second to none. And then you turn around and it’s landed at the feet of Lauren Hemp and you think: for goodness sake, here we go.
I could see Germany sitting someone on Keira to keep her quiet, because if you let her dictate the game she’ll tear you apart.
I think the first 20 minutes will be huge on Sunday in terms of managing the occasion. There will be anxiety and nerves jangling, and England are going to have to start faster than they have in previous games, otherwise Germany will capitalise.
Because Germany are so well organised, I think it will take a moment of brilliance from one of our superstars to win it for England – but we’ve got 23 of them.
Hopefully on Sunday evening I’ll finally be able to sing It’s Coming Home without worrying about jinxing anything.