Anita Asante helped England to the UEFA Women's EURO 2009 final and, four years on, she is in the midst of building up to July's tournament in Sweden. The midfielder plays for Göteborg FC, based a short walk from the city's Gamla Ullevi that will stage the official opening game between the hosts and Denmark on 10 July.
England themselves start two days later in Linkoping against Spain before further Group C matches versus Russia and France. The 28-year-old Asante, entering her third UEFA European Women's Championship, spoke to UEFA.com about the atmosphere in Gothenburg, how England are developing and the improving standard of the finals.
UEFA.com: How is the build-up in Gothenburg ?
Anita Asante: It's really good, actually. There's a lot of commercials and adverts around the city and big poster boards of Swedish national team players. Some of those are players I play with, so it's cool to see the city getting a buzz leading up to the competition.
UEFA.com: You've played in quite a few countries. How has it been in Gothenburg since last spring?
Asante: Unbelievable! I really enjoy my club, my team and my coaches. It's a different culture and I am trying to learn the language and lots of different elements, but every place I have played at, there's stuff you can take away and add to yourself, in your game and off the field. And Gothenburg is such a great small city that they really get behind their club. It's a really fun experience.
UEFA.com: Can you go one better than 2009?
Asante: Yes, I have no doubts about this team. I think we're proving in training and in friendly games just what we're capable of. We just keep looking to improve at every stage and we're all really excited about the EUROs.
UEFA.com: What aspect of the England team gives you most confidence?
Asante: [Coach] Hope Powell talks a lot about the depth in the squad, and I think we're getting some younger players coming through and a core group of us that are experienced. That gives us a lot of knowledge and experience to hone, going forward into the competition. And the likes of Jordan Nobbs coming in and doing a great job has given us strength as a unit.
UEFA.com: Up to 2009 you were playing mainly central defence for England, now you are mostly in midfield. Is that a role you prefer?
Asante: Yes, personally I like to be involved and try to distribute from the midfield areas. Obviously I'm quite comfortable playing centre-back too, and kind of happy either way, just to play. But I'm playing in midfield for my club too and really enjoying it.
UEFA.com: You have played at UEFA Women's EUROs and FIFA Women's World Cups. What does it mean to you to play in these kinds of events?
Asante: These are the kind of events we all really train hard for. You want to participate at the highest level and win things at the end of the day. And for it to be in Sweden, where I am playing now, is even more fantastic. I hope that we as a team can really do something great.
UEFA.com: Have standards risen since you have been playing in these tournaments?
Asante: The standard is definitely raised, that's part and parcel of all these leagues and their countries improving their structures and their club level. The movement of players is bigger than ever before in the women's game, so you're having a lot more top-level players playing together in a structured environment regularly, and then going back to their national teams too. That's improved the levels. So it's going to be a really exciting time and a really good time to see some really good football.
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