By Kevin Ashby
As the captain of Arsenal LFC and England, Faye White is looking forward to an exciting few months as she contemplates glory in two UEFA competitions.
The Gunners are a step away from a first appearance in the UEFA Women's Cup final, with the Swedish double-winners Djurgården/Älvsjö blocking their path to a date with 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam or SK Trondheims-Ørn. That competition concludes in May, a month before the cream of this continent's talent gathers for the UEFA European Women's Championship.
England learned their opponents at a draw in Manchester last month and will face Finland, Sweden and Denmark on home soil. Preparations begin in earnest on Thursday with a friendly against fellow finalists Italy, and White will hope to impress a new legion of fans as the National Hockey Stadium in Milton Keynes is sold out for the fixture. uefa.com talked football with the central defender.
uefa.com: What was your reaction to the draw?
Faye White: I think we can be positive with how the draw turned out for us. We're grateful that we've stayed away from Germany as it would have been tougher with them and Sweden in our group. We can be confident. It's also quite a good draw in terms of how the matches are scheduled.
uefa.com: How important is it, as hosts, that England get off to a positive start?
White: We need to capture the imagination of the public and hopefully encourage people to get behind the team and support us. We also know how important it is for our own chances of making it to the semi-finals. In competitive tournaments you need to win your opening game to settle the nerves and from then on you can focus.
uefa.com: You played in the 2001 championship. How do you think the standards have improved since then?
White: There's a big difference in the last four years, as shown by Germany and Sweden reaching the [2003 FIFA Women's] World Cup final. England have done well over the last few years and have had some good results against the likes of Denmark and France in the World Cup play-off which was close. We know we can compete with them now and hopefully we can show that in these championships.
uefa.com: How much of a help is it that Arsenal are doing so well in Europe? The semi-final will give you a chance to tackle Victoria Svensson ahead of the meeting with Sweden.
White: If you're playing at the highest level with your club team that can only help going into internationals. Maybe we'll get a few insights into the way she plays or the way the Swedes generally play; they've got a number of internationals in that team. We've already played them in the group stage and now we've got them in the semi-finals as well. It's certainly an exciting time for me at club level and for my country.
uefa.com: Can WOMEN'S EURO 2005 do for women's football what EURO '96™ did for the men's game?
White: That's the idea. Women's football is now the No1 sport for females in this country. Over one million girls have taken up the game which is encouraging. This tournament's come at an ideal time to boost the awareness of the game and give girls the role models that they can aspire to and show the level that they can achieve if they want to take their game further. It will also show the standard that women's football in Europe has now reached.
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