A month after lifting the Euro 2022 trophy England’s Lionesses were back at St George’s Park on Wednesday with Rachel Daly admitting it was nice to return to something approaching normality after the whirlwind of life over the last few weeks.
The buzz from England’s 2-1 extra-time victory over Germany in the Wembley final on July 31 has not yet worn off, but the next target is on the horizon as they resume their World Cup qualifying campaign away to Austria on Saturday.
“It feels great to be back,” Daly said. “I was saying life in camp feels more normal than out of camp right now. It’s really nice to see everyone, to be around the group and the staff, especially coming off the back of our fantastic summer.
“It’s even nicer to see each other when we’re more successful and I’m buzzing to be back. There’s a great bond within the squad and I do miss that when I’m away.”
Daly admitted the full scale of what England had achieved only became apparent to the players after the tournament, as they had been unable to appreciate the impact their success had made on the general public at the time.
“During the Euros we were in a kind of bubble,” the new Aston Villa forward – and Lionesses full-back – said. “We didn’t really see a lot of the outside world.
“We got glimpses when we went to games and we were surrounded by fans and the media but I don’t think we were aware of how much of an impact it made on the nation.
“Coming out of it has been a whirlwind. One minute we’re all together living in a bubble and the next minute it’s like you’re on Big Brother or Love Island. It’s an unbelievable feeling to see we genuinely inspired the nation.”
All remaining tickets for our @FIFAWWC qualifier with Luxembourg have now sold out.
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) August 17, 2022
After Austria, England will play Luxembourg in front of a sold-out crowd in Stoke, knowing their Euro success puts new levels of expectation on their shoulders.
“That comes with winning, that comes with success,” Daly said. “It’s a target on your back but pressure is a privilege. We have to see it as that. Of course there will be pressure on us.
“We’re focused on winning the World Cup. We were delighted to win in the summer, we’re European champs, but now the focus is on World Cup qualifying. We know what we need to do.
“Austria are a fantastic team. We saw that in the Euros with how they played against us and against Germany. We do find it tough against them. It will be a big game for us.”
Saturday’s match will also see England begin life without Jill Scott and Ellen White, who have both announced their retirement since the Euros, taking with them 274 caps’ worth of experience.
That has opened the door to the likes of Lauren James, 20, and Ebony Salmon, 21, who have both been added to Sarina Wiegman’s squad.
“Obviously it’s a devastating loss for us – two massive characters,” Daly said of Scott and White. “Two great footballers but even better humans. If you could be surrounded by them every day you would feel the empowerment and the support.
“They’re definitely missed and it’s definitely quieter without Jill. They are missed as people and players but it opens up opportunities for the youngsters. That’s the way the game goes.”