England manager Hope Powell sprang a surprise before Sunday's UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ semi-final against the Netherlands in Tampere with the selection of 20-year-old Jessica Clarke ahead of Karen Carney; it proved a masterstroke.
Leeds Carnegie LFC winger Clarke only made her debut in March and was starting a competitive senior international for the first time. Nevertheless, her efforts over the first 90 minutes helped produce the goal that gave England a brief lead, before she was withdrawn and watched their extra-time success from the bench.
Clarke, a late substitute in two group games, told uefa.com that Powell informed her "sometime on Saturday morning, I knew in advance so I would prepare". Powell, who had already caused a surprise by taking Clarke to Finland rather than the experienced Rachel Yankey, explained: "It's really tactics. Jess shows a lot of grit and guile. We wanted to play her up into their full-back [Dyanne Bito], who's very physical and tough, and wear her down a bit. Credit to Jess, she's the reason why we got the first goal. Her determination, that's why she started. She's got a great future ahead of her"
Part of the England side that reached the final of the 2007 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship, Clarke said: "Obviously coming through into the seniors is an amazing feeling. I can't really explain how I feel for the girls and myself to get an opportunity to play in the final." Not that it was easy for her watching as her team-mates clinched a place in Thursday's decider despite missing chance after chance in extra time before Jill Scott's 116th-minute header. "I nearly had a heart attack to be honest," Clarke said. "On the bench you're not in control are you? We kept digging away at them, I was confident that we would nick one back because we had so many chances and thankfully one came through."
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