England winger Rachel Yankey reflected on a "very special" moment after marking her 100th cap with the opening goal in a 3-0 defeat of Turkey which secured Hope Powell's team a place in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup play-offs as Group 5 winners.
To celebrate the Arsenal LFC player becoming only the second woman in England's history to achieve the milestone, Powell and Faye White – the regular captain – allowed the 30-year-old to wear the armband for their side's penultimate qualifier. In keeping with the script in the west Midlands, Yankey opened the scoring on 23 minutes and, to cap a memorable night, was also named player of the match for an energetic display on the left.
"When you think only Gill Coulthard [119 caps] has done it before, to me that means a lot because there have been some fantastic players who've now retired or are still playing who haven't," said Yankey, a debutant in August 1997 against Scotland. "Getting to this stage is a big honour but I just want to play as many games as I can."
Having appeared in the 2007 Women's World Cup in China, where England reached the quarter-finals, Yankey is eager for another chance to shine on the world stage. Yet despite completing "part one" in winning the section, Yankey acknowledges that the two-legged qualifying play-off in mid-September against another of the eight group winners represents a step up in class.
"Whoever we draw is going to be extremely difficult," added Yankey, whose corner led to Jessica Clarke making it 3-0 late on. "Every game from now on is a cup final and there's no way back from any slip-ups. It's going to get more difficult and there's going to be a lot more pressure, but hopefully that's something we can build on and make sure we're at our peak for these next two games."
First, however, England conclude their group campaign away to Austria next month, where Yankey will aim to increase her haul of caps. Powell, who says there is "more to come" from her No11, praised the way Yankey has reacted to being omitted from the squad that got to the final of UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009 last September.
"It will have felt like the worst thing but she's responded very well," explained Powell. "The squad is very competitive now; we've probably not had it as competitive in all the years I've been in charge. The competition is fierce, which can only be good."
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