England winger Rachel Yankey's focus is on playing at UEFA Women's EURO 2013 in Sweden next month but yesterday she had more immediate cause to reflect.
By playing in England's 1-1 friendly draw with world champions Japan in Burton Upon Trent, Yankey won her 126th cap, beating a national record held by Peter Shilton since 1990. England manager Hope Powell made the Arsenal LFC player captain for the day, and Yankey responded by setting up Eniola Aluko for her side's goal.
"It was fantastic," Yankey said. "Hope told me on Monday that I was going to lead them out. That is something I don't usually do, so to be able to do that is fantastic. Everybody's been so supportive, all the girls bantered me and cheered me on the bus! It is very nice and I thank them for it."
As for the performance in England's last friendly before flying to Sweden on Monday, Yankey said: "To come away with a 1-1 draw against the world champions ain't bad, but we could have actually won it. To come on and show determination and go for a win, Lucy Bronze [the debutant who had a late goal disallowed] coming on and almost scoring on her debut, it would have been a fantastic day."
Bronze and the still uncapped Gemma Bonner were two new players named last week in England's finals squad alongside three fellow members of their nation's 2009 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship-winning squad, Jordan Nobbs, Toni Duggan and Jade Moore. Yankey, about to play in her sixth major tournament, is impressed by the new generation as they limber up to meet Spain, Russia and France in Group C from 12 July.
"They have experienced tournament football – they've gone and won it, so maybe we need to learn off them!" the 33-year-old said. "They fit right in, it is not really any different, they are good enough to be here and we will give them the most experience we can as older players. It is about them going out on the pitch and being confident and showing they have the right to be here."
After arriving in Sweden, England have one last friendly against the finals hosts next Thursday. "It is a fantastic game," Yankey said. "The pressure of that game will be the home crowd and they have a lot of expectation, they want to show off and win in their warm-up game for their crowd. To make the tournament a spectacle it needs to be a good game. We will go to Sweden feeling confident, but is irrelevant what happens against Sweden, it is what happens against Spain."
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