Alex Scott: England veteran speaks of the 'buzz' of a World Cup debut
On the Pitch
Tuesday 10 June 2014
First England qualified. Then I was named in the squad. Next there was a pre-tournament training camp. Finally, we touched down in China. In customs, I looked up, and there it was, a big poster with 'Fifa World Cup' written on it. That is when it really sank in: I was at a World Cup.
That is how it was for me, at my first World Cup, and I'm sure that is what it has been like this week for those England men at their first tournament.
As a player being in a World Cup is almost indescribable. You just want to take everything in because you never know if your first may be your last but you have made the World Cup. All the years of hard work have paid off. The training as a kid, the fitness work, the sacrifices when your friends are going out and you have a match to prepare for. All worth it.
I remember my first World Cup back in 2007 like it was yesterday. We went to Macau for a training camp to get used to high temperatures, just as the men have done in Florida. Preparation went well, like the men we played a couple of friendlies, then it was off to China. I can still picture that poster behind customs now. When it's your first World Cup you want to take pictures of everything and that was the first.
Then you board the coach to the hotel and you see posters on the street, locals in football tops and World Cup sign after World Cup sign on every lamp post. This is it! You can feel the atmosphere!
The week before the first game can drag, because you just want to get started. You feel like you have all the preparation you need and you are like a caged animal just waiting to be let loose. But you need to do the fine-tuning in training and watch the videos; work on team shape, how you are going to break the opposition down and defend as a team.
I remember sitting down to watch the opening ceremony in our hotel. Seeing the opening game and the fans gave me goosebumps. In the coming days that would be me, walking out to thousands of fans in my first World Cup. I had played in FA Cup finals, in the Champions League final and for England in the European Championships, but this was different. Excitement, nerves and adrenalin all started to rush through me. That night I dreamed of our opening game, which I'm sure some of the lads will do.
The great thing about Roy's team is that a lot of guys are at their first World Cup together. They'll be buzzing with excitement and pride. This will create such a positive atmosphere. This is where the veterans Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard play a massive role in reining in some of that excitement and keep the younger lads focused on that opening game.
Senior players like Frank Lampard will play a big role in reining in youngsters’ excitement (Getty)
They will need it. Playing in a stadium filled with screaming fans, wearing that Three Lions shirt, knowing everyone back home, all your family and friends and the nation are watching, willing you on, is a massive pressure. It can feel heavy for some while others will shine. You try to stay in your own bubble as a team. One of our players was given a torrid time in the press about her performances in one championship. She couldn't help but let it get to her. We tried to block every-thing from outside that could impact us negatively.
It is important to remember the adage: "Win as a team, lose as a team, it's never down to an individual." To know everyone in your camp has your back brings that unity you need. Being away for that long can be tough, but when you are together as a team you get through it.
Roy's team is the first I have seen at a major tournament looking relaxed and seeming like they are enjoying being away. They will be looking forward to the real business. Let's just hope after the first game we will all be smiling with them.
Good luck boys, the England women's team will be cheering you on in Minsk, at 1 am, having played a World Cup qualifier ourselves against Belarus on Saturday. Let's hope it's a win double!
Alex Scott plays for Arsenal Ladies. She has 112 England caps and played in the 2007 and 2011 World Cups
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