One of the most accomplished midfield performances I’ve seen in the three
years I’ve followed women’s football was Anita Asante’s display
against Japan at the World Cup last year.
Not only was she key to nullifying the Japanese attacking threat and
helping her team keep a clean sheet, but she was also instrumental in
protecting her back four to allow more attack minded players bomb
She was surprisingly replaced in the next game against New Zealand and
the quarter-final against France, but has since cemented her place in
the England team, playing a key role in Hope Powell’s side qualifying
for next year’s European Championships is Sweden.
Other than keeper Karen Bardsley, there is no one more knowledgeable on
the country England will travel to for the championships next year, as
the 26-year-old midfield enforcer plays her football for
Last week she won the Swedish Cup with her club, defeating Marta’s
Tyresö FF in the final.
I was lucky enough to catch up with her just before she lifted her
first piece of silverware in Sweden to talk England, Sweden and .
1. First, congrats on the qualification for Sweden next year. How much of a relief was it to top your group?
I think we, as a team are, very happy to have qualified for the Euro’s in Sweden next year, but to have also topped our group leaves us with a greater sense of achievement also.
2. You’ve been praised for doing the work that possibly goes unnoticed, mopping up in front of the back four to allow the likes of Jill Scott and Fara Williams to get forward. Do you think this is a role becoming more and more important in women’s football?
I think the World Cup, European Championships and the Olympics most recently have reflected the significant growth and progression in the women’s game. There is a considerable amount of attention focussed on tactics as players and teams are increasingly better and more adept within the game, so I do think this is a role that is increasing in need and one perhaps more teams are starting to favour therefore, adding more importance to the role!
3. You played alongside Faye White in the last Euros as part of the back four. What would you say your most comfortable position is?
I have played at Centre back at previous major competitions but now I am back in midfield and thoroughly enjoying the experience. I have gained a wealth of experience and knowledge in both positions and feel equally efficient in both, however I believe I have a lot more to contribute from a midfield position.
4. How much will the team’s experience at the last few major tournaments play a part in preparations for Sweden next year?
As individual players we learn so much from playing and observing games from prior competitions and I think the last major competitions will undoubtedly play some part in our preparations for Sweden next year. Our knowledge of players, the environment what we learn about each other is now so much more expansive and will hopefully prove to be very useful in our tournament ambitions.
5. Expectations will be high after reaching the final of the Euros last time round. How do you as an individual deal with that pressure?
After reaching the Euro finals in 2009 I try to deal with pressure by not focussing on outside expectations and focus more on personal goals.
6. You’re based in Sweden with Kopparbergs/Göteborg. What is the footballing culture like out there and how much are you enjoying it?
Kopparbergs/ Goteborg FC feels like a small close-knit family, ha! The football culture is really liberating, I have had such a positive experience here and feel like I have been playing some of my best football because of the culture, my team, the staff and the possession oriented football that is so well ingrained here at this club.
7. What sort of hosts will Sweden be next year? What do you think both players and spectators can expect?
Sweden will be excellent hosts, there is such a wealth of history and culture in women’s football here. I’m sure the Euro’s will be a great spectacle and one both the players and spectators will find very hard to forget!
8. Pia Sundhage has confirmed she will take over the Swedes in December. How dangerous do you think that makes them, and what other nations do you believe will be challenging in the competition?
Everybody knows what a successful coach Pia was for the US. I think her accession as the national coach for Sweden will give them great energy and belief that they too can have a very successful tournament. I think along with many other teams, Sweden will be strong contenders for a finals place along with title holders Germany.
9. Finally, what have you noticed about the attitude of the British public towards women’s football since the Olympics?
The British public, I believe, exceeded all expectations and were phenomenally supportive of Team GB and our efforts this Olympics. I also believe that we have undoubtedly managed to capture the hearts of new British supporters and set a precedent for future teams as well as inspire a generation of young potential athletes. The support for and attitude towards women’s football continues to develop and grow in a positive direction.