England enjoying rare downtime
DUSSELDORF, Germany -- There's a bit of downtime for Team England on Thursday, a rarity in the go-go world of competing in the FIFA Women's World Cup.
England can relax slightly because it advanced to Saturday's quarterfinal game against France in Leverkusen.
The team traveled from Augsburg to Leverkusen on Wednesday, flying from Munich to Cologne and arriving in time to take in the Australia-Norway game. Australia won 2-1, claiming its spot in another side of the quarterfinals.
"It was actually nice to settle in and see a game as a normal person," Team England goalie Karen Bardsley said on Thursday. "You get to see the fun of it, how the crowd reacts, how the game feels from another perspective. You see how people came out to be entertained. There were fathers and sons, families, just people who wanted to watch some good football.
"I really liked that. We don't get to do that too often."
Thursday was a day for practice, preparing for France and getting some rest and treatment for tired and sore bodies. Friday will bring one last practice before the quarters at FIFA Women's World Cup stadium in Leverkusen.
Playing in the World Cup is a grind, even more than just from on-the-field action.
"It's tiring, it really is," England coach Hope Powell said. "When you're on the road so long, we as the staff get together, we work long hours. Once we play the game, it's quite frantic, because you're packing up, you're moving to the next venue. You're packing up until midnight, and then you unwind for two hours. There are very long hours [of work].
"Between, you do try to get some sleep. It's difficult. There isn't a lot of time, to be honest. I am not complaining; it's just very tiring."
Preparing for the quarterfinals brings an additional layer of pressure, as there is no margin for error anymore. England enters the knockout round for the first time as a group winner -- a good omen, as every Women's World Cup champion has won its group.
"We recognize that it's one-off right now: Win, stay, or lose and go home," Powell said. "There's pressure on both teams."
Mom knows best
Powell's mom, Lynn, is one of her biggest fans and isn't shy to share her assessments of the game. Lynn phoned Powell on her cell during England's postvictory news conference on Tuesday wanting to discuss things.
Powell returned the call later, always enjoying a good chat with her mom.
"She was well excited," Powell said, smiling. "She is actually quite funny, as she doesn't really understand what we do. She'll ask me, 'What was that all about?' or 'They weren't very good today, were they?' I think [back to] when she's been to the home matches, she'll say, 'A draw? That's not very good.' She didn't quite understand it.
"It makes me laugh."
The French are still dealing with the implications of starting goalie Berangere Sapowicz receiving a red card in their final Group A match against Germany on Tuesday.
Sapowicz did a hard takedown of German midfielder Fatmire Bajramaj near the goal, leading to the red card and an automatic ejection from the game. Striker Inka Grings scored on the penalty shot on cold, backup goalie Celine Deville, putting Germany up 3-1. It proved to be the winning goal, as Germany went on to a 4-2 win.
Sapowicz is out of Saturday's game, serving the mandatory one-game suspension for the red card. Deville, who is a rookie in the World Cup, likely will start for France.
Powell has some empathy, as she's been through that situation before.
"We had that happen to us in the European qualifiers a few years ago. ... We have experienced that, so please don't jinx us," Powell said. "You prepare for those scenarios."