Junior goalkeeper Sandy MacIver is in France representing England at the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. MacIver and her Lionesses’ team open group play on Sunday, Aug. 5 against Korea DPR, and also face Brazil (on Aug. 8) and Mexico (on Aug. 12) in the first phase of competition.
Prior to the start of the competition, MacIver discussed the experience in a Q&A for ClemsonTigers.com.
Q. You’ve been at home in England all summer training for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, which means that you were there during the FIFA Men’s World Cup. What was it like to be there while the World Cup was going on? Was the country really excited, especially with England making it to the semifinals?
A. “The atmosphere was something I’d never experienced before with any previous England team. The whole country was united. With England inventing the game of football we all would say “It’s Coming Home”. This was more something that brought the country together, rather than only being fixated on the team winning the World Cup. What helped is that this was one of the first times I can remember where there haven’t been any expectations. We have underperformed at previous tournaments when expectations were extremely high, so heading into Russia with a young and inexperienced squad, there wasn’t the built up pressure. Because of that, advancing to the semifinal heightened the excitement even more.”
Q. The U-20 Women’s World Cup in France will be your third major tournament, as you previously represented England at the 2015 EUROs in Iceland and the 2017 EUROs last summer in Ireland. How are you feeling heading in to such an important event? How have the experiences from the previous tournaments helped you prepare for this one?
A. “Going into the World Cup, the team has a much different mindset and mentality than previous competitions. This is the most prepared we’ve been and everyone has put in the work, both during training camp and away from it. We’re very excited because it’s an opportunity to showcase the hard work we’ve put in. For some of us it’s been a three-year journey and we want to finish it knowing we did everything we could. This is one of the most together teams I’ve ever been a part of and I think this plays such a big role in major tournaments, especially if you want to reach the finals. While we haven’t had as much success as we’d have liked in the younger tournaments, we have learned a lot about game management. It’s easy to get distracted by what is going on around you and thinking about all the other teams you could play, but you learn that the most important thing is what you can control, which is yourself and putting all your focus and effort into the next thing, whether that is recovery or training or a match.”
Q. Your England team plays in a group with Brazil, Mexico and Korea. What do you know about those teams and how do they look? What do you think are your chances for advancing past the group stage? What are some things that your team needs to focus on in order to win/advance?
A. “The teams in our group play different styles of football than what we’re used to in Europe, which will present different challenges. North Korea are the defending U-20 World Cup holders so we know we’ll be coming up against a good technical side and some of the best players in the world. We played Brazil in the Nike tournament last December and we had a game against China in the La Manga tournament earlier this year to help us prepare. We definitely believe we can get out of the group but we won’t get caught up with looking ahead. We’ll prepare for each game one at a time, and ultimately, will focus on ourselves.”
Q. What will your days look like while you are at the World Cup? What is your schedule on match days? Do you fly or travel by bus when you go to the site of your next match? How much will you train on the days between matches?
A. “Leading up to the first match, we’ll train most days and we’ll have gym sessions. Recovery is also important so there’ll be times where that will be the focus. On a typical match day, we’ll have a meeting to confirm our goals as a unit and as a team in the morning. We’ll also go on a team ‘walk & stretch’ to get some fresh air, especially if we’ll be traveling for a while to the stadium. We’ll travel by bus to each match; all the games are taking place in the same province of Brittany in Northern France. Between games, we will still train but the sessions won’t be as high intensity as they were leading up to the first game, and the focus will be more technical/tactical rather than physical.”
Q. What have you learned playing with the national team? How has your game improved? How have you matured? What are some things about the experience that you can bring back to Clemson to share with your teammates here?
A. “Playing with the best players in the country and against the best teams in the world you have to speed your game up. Our style is to play out from the back and keep possession, so coming up against very fast forwards I’ve always got to be thinking about the next play and where my pass is going before it gets to me. This year a number of players have taken on responsibilities in our leadership group. Each one has a different area they lead on, whether that’s unit leader, physical leader, social or psychological leader. This has really helped to integrate the players and staff working towards our goal. I am the set play leader and I take responsibility for both the defending and attacking set ups, which I’ve really enjoyed doing. I think it’s good because we have to take ownership and share responsibility as to how we play and what we think could work. This is very important in any team.”
ENGLAND’S GROUP PHASE SCHEDULE:
Sunday, Aug. 5 vs. Korea DPR
4:30 PM Local time (10:30 AM ET)
Wednesday, Aug. 8 vs. Brazil
1:30 PM Local time (7:30 AM ET)
Sunday, Aug. 12 vs. Mexico
1:30 PM Local time (7:30 AM ET)
READ: England’s Official Roster Announcement (7/23/18)