Thursday Sept 13th – Day after Brazil match
Enjoyed a “sleep in” this morning until 8.30am, did our daily measurements (weight, resting heart rate, urine concentration) and then breakfasted. An hour later the girls who played in the previous night’s game were in the swimming pool, loosening tired legs. The subs were off to the training pitch to have a good, high-intensity training.
Rest was really the main focus for today…and eating. I never consume so many carbs as I do on tour, and being that we are in China, carbohydrates in the form of rice are in abundance.
After dinner we had a team meeting that focussed on our performance last night. We analysed some of our positive plays in the game, and then honed in on our areas of weakness. Our video analysis team is amazing – they spend hours going through footage and picking out parts in our game that the coach feels we should discuss and try to improve. After each match, they also put together short films of everyone’s personal touches on the ball, and you can go back and watch each touch that you made. For example, if you touch the ball 26 times in the game, by the following morning there will be 26 clips under your name waiting for you to study.
We were allowed out tonight – out into the lively streets of Wuhan. We elected to go to the night markets where the prices are ridiculously cheap…mainly because everything you find there is ridiculously fake. DVD’s were on sale for 5 yuan, which is equivalent to about 70 cents. The most interesting stall I saw was tended by a man trying to sell goldfish, rabbits, baby turtles and mice – mice that I am pretty sure would serve as food to the live snakes on sale just down the street.
This adventure was followed by a good sleep.
Friday Sept 14th
Daily measures as usual, then breakfast at 8am. We were onto the bus at 9.30am, and then on our way to training. The ride to the field would normally take about 40 minutes, but as we have a police-car chauffer, we get there a lot quicker. We go through EVERY red light and, if necessary, drive on the opposite side of the road. People here don’t actually seem to mind, either. Training is obviously very light today, as it is the day before our match against Denmark. We clarify a few things at training, and make sure we have our structure and game plan all sorted.
On arrival back to the hotel we have lunch, which is followed by another meeting that focuses on Denmark’s performance. We watch a few selected clips of Denmark playing various teams, and go over their strengths and areas of their game that we will try to exploit. This is followed by a whole lot of down time, and in my case, a whole lot of thinking. The nerves have definitely crept into my head by the time I hit the pillow.
Saturday Sept 15th – GAME DAY!
8.30am: daily measures were taken – all of our urine concentrations were expected to be very low because good hydration is the key to optimal performance. If they were high, we were told to get in as much water as possible.
Breakfast was at 8.30am, followed by down time. We had a light lunch at 12pm and then our ritual pre-match meeting.
These meetings are the most inspiring meetings I will ever attend. Our coach has a way with words, and manages to get us all feeling patriotic. The most powerful part of these meetings, however, is the part when we all gather around the New Zealand flag as a group – players, coaches, technical staff, and management –and selected people say what’s on their mind. It’s hard not to get emotional when you think back to the sacrifices you have made to get here, and even harder when you think about the things that your team mates have given up to be next to you.
A quick bite to eat, and then we are on our way to the stadium. From what I have seen, there are two main ways that people act before a huge game: either they are deathly quiet, lost in their own thoughts, or they are laughing and yelling, trying to do their best to keep their mind off the pressure they are feeling. The odd few don’t feel the pressure, and act as they normally would.
We arrive at the stadium exactly on time – 3.30pm – thanks to the outstanding organization of this tournament. Could you believe that of all places, in China, a country of 1.3 billion, they have actually STOPPED rush-hour traffic, so that ours and the Danish bus get to the stadium without a hitch?
The time is drawing closer, and my nerves have crept to a new level. We all put our warm-up uniform on, head out to the pitch, and after an intense 20 minute warm-up, we head back into the locker room to put on our jerseys. Wearing your national team jersey is quite a feeling.
5pm: Game time.
0-0 at half time, but the Danes manage to put two goals past us in the second half. We aren’t happy with the loss, but as Denmark was ranked 6th in the world prior to this World Cup, we keep our heads up.