Claire Rafferty will be looking to banish the ghosts of four years ago tonight as England begin their FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign against France in Canada.
At the quarter-finals stage in 2010, England were two minutes away from the last four when France equalised, forced extra time and ultimately broke English hearts 4-3 on penalties.
It was Chelsea left-back Rafferty who, aged just 22 at the time, stepped up fourth but screwed her effort wide as France clinched their progress – prompting talk of cowardice in the camp after.
“I think it was kind of a spur of the moment that I took one, I felt like I could step up and do the job,” she said.
“It was all in the press about people being cowards and things like that but the fact is that we weren’t actually prepared for the penalties.”
Since that moment, Rafferty’s path to Canada has been far from simple having suffered three ACL injuries – after her third before the Euros in 2013 she went away to avoid seeing the action.
“I didn’t want to use the injury as an excuse for not being where I wanted to be,” she said.
“I want someone to turn round to me and say ‘look you can’t play anymore’ rather than me giving up.”
No one has done that though and she has fought back thanks to help from England teammates and university friends Ellen White and Steph Houghton, as well as Casey Stoney.
“Coming back from injuries it’s hard mentally and someone like Casey always lends a perspective and she’s got a hell of a lot of experience, so any problems I have I do tend to look to her,” she added.
Despite her successful footballing career, Rafferty does have a back-up if the injury strikes again, working part-time, three days a week, as an analyst with Deutsche Bank.
Rafferty trains in the morning then hits the city to clock on for the afternoon.
She said: “Chelsea and England allow me to do that because they know about my injuries and if I get one more injury I’m not sure how much I would be able to recover so it’s kind of a back-up for me.”
Tonight’s game against Philippe Bergeroo’s third-ranked France will be the toughest sixth-ranked England will face in a group also containing Colombia and Mexico.
And with old rivalries set to be ignited, Rafferty believes they are in a better position now under Mark Sampson then they have been for a while.
“Four years later we’ve got more people who have more experience than before,” she said.
“As well as the change of management and change of ethos and mentality, the squad is really quite different.
“It’s a bit of a grudge match for us and the fact that they’re quite close to home is always a bit of a battle.
“The French team are a strong team and we know that but we’re taking that game as seriously as we’re going to take the next couple of games so we’re going to win.”
Feature image courtesy of FATV, via Youtube, with thanks