Ellen White has experienced the elation and heartbreak of international football more than most, but ahead of her eighth major tournament, England women’s all-time top goalscorer is still bursting with enthusiasm.
White, 33, will lead the line for the Lionesses at Euro 2022, her third European Championship to go with three World Cups and two appearances at the Olympic Games.
The Manchester City striker has plenty of goals and memories to cherish from previous tournaments, but she is still missing a winner’s medal after three semi-final and three quarter-final exits.
White shared the Golden Boot with American stars Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan at the World Cup three years ago, but was on the losing side of a semi-final showdown with the United States.
Three years on, she is one of the few remaining key members of that team as a new-look England under Sarina Wiegman aim to end their wait for a major women’s title on home soil.
But White is hopeful the rapidly rising standards in the English Women’s Super League and exposure to Champions League football means there will not be a steep learning curve for those making their major tournament debuts.
“We have a great balance of youth and experience,” she said.
“As a squad the depth and experience we have, not just internationally, but club football as well, the experience of playing Champions League, cup finals, is incredible.”
Wiegman’s arrival in September to finally fill the void left by Phil Neville’s departure on a permanent basis has lifted the Lionesses after a World Cup hangover and nearly a year without matches due to coronavirus.
A 5-1 thrashing of European champions the Netherlands on Friday, despite White’s absence due to a positive case of Covid, sent out a strong message that England are deserving of their status as one of the pre-tournament favourites.
– ‘Times are changing’ –
Wiegman also knows what it takes to win the competition, having led her native Netherlands to glory on home soil five years ago.
“She’s a true leader. That has fed through the staff, the players, everyone. I think as soon as we heard she had taken the job we were really excited,” added White.
“At the moment it is really exciting the way we are playing and the philosophy.”
High expectations have drawn in huge crowds with all three of England’s group games sold out.
The tournament opener against Austria at Old Trafford on July 6 will smash the previous attendance record for a match at a women’s Euro by over 30,000.
That figure will be beaten again on July 31 for the final at Wembley.
“My first experience of a tournament was Euro 96, obviously a men’s tournament, but we have these kids now whose first experience of a tournament will be a women’s Euros which is scary, exciting, mind-blowing!” White said.
“The times are changing and we are really excited for all that visibility of all the kids seeing women’s sport and football. Being able to come to games, hopefully we can inspire them.
“There is going to be some phenomenal talent on show in this Euros and for the neutral it’s very exciting.”
With 50 goals in 107 caps, White has earned the right to be considered the best English striker in the history of the women’s game.
Leading her country to win a home Euro would cement her status as a legend.