Claudia Walker talks to UEFA.com about England's collective strength, bouncing back for Friday's crunch meeting with Republic of Ireland and her hopes for the future.
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Claudia Walker says England turned to each other for comfort after their 2-0 opening-day loss to Sweden on Tuesday, a disappointing start to their UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship campaign here in Norway.
In a makeshift team, many of the girls are gaining tournament experience for the first time during a testing period of transition. Yet captain Walker believes a strong sense of togetherness has helped them refocus ahead of their next tough game, against the Republic of Ireland in Mjondalen on Friday. "A lot of the regular players are away with the Under-20s ahead of the World Cup so we're still getting to know each other," the Liverpool LFC striker said.
"As well as all the obvious training, we've done lots of bonding exercises which has been great for us to get to know one another better. The loss to Sweden forced us closer too, because without being able to support each other, I think there would still be some disappointed faces now. We were all down after the game but by the next day we had all bounced back. None of us are blaming anyone else: we all made our own mistakes and know about them, so nothing's gained by pointing the finger."
Traditional rivals, England and Ireland are evidently relishing the chance to meet on this stage. "I've heard about how the Irish girls are looking forward to Friday and we're no different," said Walker. "We know a handful of them through our clubs so it will be a memorable game. Hopefully we'll get a result. The games are tougher than a lot of us expected and we know Ireland will be up for it. It's a game both teams will have that extra bit of drive for, and they're on a high after beating Spain."
Further challenges await Walker upon her return to England. "I hope to go to John Moores University to read education studies and physical education," Walker, 18, said. "I eventually want to become a PE teacher in a school for people with special needs. I had some experience of working with people who have disabilities at my former club, Stoke City, and I loved it.
"It really made me think about how sport can help people in different circumstances so I hope everything goes well for me this summer and I can get a place there to study at a higher level. It's been a fantastic experience at the tournament so far, and I think the experiences you get here can really help you in other areas of your life."