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Millie Bright on England's progress and bravery – interview

The England defender talks to UEFA.com about defensive stability, developing her game and the team's rapport with the Lionesses' fans.

Millie Bright celebrates one of England's three wins in the group stage
Millie Bright celebrates one of England's three wins in the group stage Getty Images

England kept three successive clean sheets in the group stage. At the heart of their defence has been Chelsea defender Millie Bright, who is fast becoming one of Sarina Wiegman's most consistent performers.

As she prepares to line up alongside captain Leah Williamson at centre-back in tonight's quarter-final against Spain, Bright spoke to UEFA.com about how she has been flourishing in that partnership and why, under the new coach, England have been so difficult to break down.

England's record 14 group stage goals

On England's performances in the group stage

One to remember. What stands out for me is the fans; they've been absolutely incredible. The atmosphere in every single game has been electric. Just seeing smiles on people's faces and cheering, whether it be a tackle, a goal, the end or the start of the game. As a player, what more could you wish for?

As a defender it's just as important for us to keep clean sheets as it is for us to go on and score and that's something we pride ourselves on equally as much as putting the ball in the back of the net at the other end and being ruthless. So, we're extremely proud and it’s something we don’t want to change.

On the development of her game under Wiegman

I don't think I've hit my peak performance but I'm getting into my stride in an England shirt now and really playing the way that I want. I think that's something that Sarina has instilled not just in me but in the team as well. We always have a game plan but it's being able to express yourself as a player, and not being afraid to make mistakes is the biggest one. If we're not making mistakes then, for us as a group, we're not being brave enough, we're not having the courage to play the passes that we'd normally play. I think we've really taken that to the next level as a group as well as individually.

Millie Bright speaks to UEFA.com
Millie Bright speaks to UEFA.com

On her partnership with Leah Williamson and their long-range passing

I think that's a natural pass for me and Leah so it feels normal for us to make those passes. Again, I think it's having the bravery to do that and the licence to go on and play the pass you see. We always say: "Whoever's on the ball, you have control in making your decision." That's been the biggest thing. If I'm on the ball, I make the decision and other people don't dictate. If it goes wrong, it goes wrong. No one is straight down on you. It's "you go again". It's good encouragement and without making those mistakes, you don't learn or grow.

On not getting carried away by the records England set in the group stage

We just have to put them to one side. We've had an excellent run in the group stage but our mentality has been to keep going to new levels, and we know they're all going to be tough games from here on in. The quarter-final is going to be an extremely tough game and if we don't perform, obviously we're out. For us, it's knowing what we're capable of but always keeping two feet on the ground, knowing that we've still got new levels to go to and respecting the opponents that we come up against.

2017 highlights: England 2-0 Spain

On the mental strength of this England team

I think we're mentally tougher now. That's come from having more confidence in possession, taking our levels higher and showing everyone what we actually are about as a team. I think we're really starting to show some of the best football that we've ever played but again, going back to the group stage, having that mentality to keep pushing regardless of the scoreline, no matter the opponent, our mentality and work ethic stays the same. We always have respect for opponents but we want to be ruthless, put our stamp on the game and show fans what we're really about.

On the balance in this England squad

We've got a little bit of everything if I'm honest. The younger players are incredible. I think we've got a lot of experience in the group. We've got players that have played in big tournaments and games, and are used to the pressure that we're up against. We're embracing the fans and the environment, and using that as a boost. That's why the fans are vital to us. That's why it's important after the games to embrace them and to get that connection because we need them in every game.