Fran Kirby is trying to remain level-headed but admits he’s putting a smile on fans’ faces at a difficult time for the country that powers England ahead of Tuesday’s Euro 2022 semi-finals.
A dramatic 2-1 overtime win against Spain on Wednesday added to the growing sense of momentum, with the showdown of the last four against Sweden being broadcast in Trafalgar Square in front of up to 5,000 fans.
Some of the celebrations following Georgia Stanway’s sensational win at the Amex – and again after full-time – were reminiscent of scenes produced by England’s men’s team last summer.
While Gareth Southgate’s side fell at the last hurdle, the Lionesses are determined to go all the way and Kirby is keenly aware of the strain the cost of living crisis is putting on people.
She said: “As the tournament grew, we went down the river and saw people leaning forward and saying, ‘Well done girls – we support you!’
“It’s great and not something we’re used to in terms of the level that the Women’s Super League is putting up in comparison to that, it’s incredible. Hopefully we give the country something to smile about and be proud of in terms of the way we play and the way we play.
“The other thing is, if we get a chance to win the semifinals and reach the final, I think it’s going to be incredible that the people of this country have something to celebrate and enjoy. We want to do that as much as possible.
“As much as we want to win, we want to put a smile on people’s faces. They may be going through a tough time right now in terms of fuel costs and the cost of living, so hopefully we can give people 90+ minutes of escape just by turning on their TV.
“We want them to have something to cheer about, something to see and they will see how passionately we play for this country. Hopefully it gives them a sense of pride and they can switch off from whatever’s going on.”
England were six minutes from leaving their home tournament in the quarter-finals before Ella Toone’s late volley at the end of regulation time.
While even coach Sarina Wiegman was swept up in the heat after the final whistle, Kirby insists she remains calm after helping the Lionesses reach the last four in a major tournament for the fourth consecutive season.
That means the Chelsea star isn’t yet allowing himself to lift a silver at Wembley in a week’s time.
“I’m pretty cool and calm. Some celebrations have some girls involved, but I like to keep it subtle,” Kirby said.
“I haven’t allowed myself to think about it yet, no. I’ll save the celebrations until after the final – then I can let off steam!
“Of course we would like to end this tournament with the trophy, but it’s not that easy.
“Any team that’s left in this tournament will give you the same answer – they want to win, so for us it’s about focusing on going to the final in the best way and winning the semifinals.
“For me I would like to win the cup, 100 percent. I’m a very competitive player when it comes to football so I’d love to win. My goal is to win the tournament, but I know we have to do well in the semi-finals to do that.”
Victory in the last four of a major tournament is a hurdle the Lionesses have yet to overcome, having lost at this point at the 2015 and 2019 World Championships and the last European Championship five years ago.
Kirby added: “I don’t want to be another player who loses in a semi-final and doesn’t get to the final of a major tournament with England.
“Some of the girls who were there have it in the back of their minds. We’ve been through four semi-finals now, but for us it’s about the present and not being in that position again.
“Nobody really talked about it at camp in terms of those who were in that situation, so it’s about winning the game and getting to the finals.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/euro-2022-fran-kirby-england-sarina-wiegman-sweden-b2130154.html Fran Kirby strives to give England fans an escape from life’s struggles