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England’s Lauren Hemp feels she is yet to hit top gear at Euro 2022
Hemp started all three of England’s group games as the Lionesses beat Austria 1-0, Norway 8-0 and Northern Ireland 5-0.
Lauren Hemp feels she is yet to hit top gear at Euro 2022 as England prepare for Wednesday’s quarter-final against Spain.
The 21-year-old Manchester City winger, named PFA young player of the year in four of the last five seasons, went into this summer’s tournament being widely tipped to light it up.
She started all three of England’s group games as the Lionesses beat Austria 1-0 at Old Trafford, Norway 8-0 at the Amex Stadium and Northern Ireland 5-0 at St Mary’s, notching one goal and one assist along the way.
Ahead of the team returning to Brighton for Wednesday’s last-eight clash, Hemp was asked if fans had seen the best of her at the Euros so far, and she said: “I think it takes time.
“It’s my first major tournament with England as well (Hemp was also with Great Britain at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics), and in front of so many fans, it’s nerve-wracking, I’m not going to lie. I think it’s just being consistent as well – it’s something that I’m striving towards.
“Personally I don’t think you’ve seen the best (of me) yet, but there’s still time.
“It’s going to take a while and I still need to remember I’m still so young, I’m still learning every single day, and I’m taking it all in my stride really. I’ve got a great group of players around me who are supporting me.”
Hemp says her “overriding feeling is excitement” with regard to the meeting with Spain, who are ranked a place above England at seventh in the world.
They lost star names to injury in Alexia Putellas and Jennifer Hermoso just prior to the tournament before going on to finish second in Group B, having beaten Finland 4-1, lost 2-0 to Germany and then won 1-0 against Denmark.
Hemp said: “They’re a great side, possession-based football, and we’re ready for that and we’ve done all the preparation needed for it.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge. But we know on our day we can beat anyone.
“I think it’s important we go into the game with the same mindset, the same attitude – they are still a fantastic team, even though they are missing some key players.”
England boss Sarina Wiegman did not attend the Northern Ireland match last Friday after testing positive for coronavirus, and may well be absent again on Wednesday. On Monday she watched training from a distance with a mask on.
Hemp said: “Whether it’s remotely or in person, she still does the same thing, is still connected with the group. Whether she’s there on the pitch or there in the background, I’m sure she’ll have a massive influence in the game.”
Asked about the prospect of a penalty shoot-out, Hemp said: “We’ve definitely been practising (penalties), it’s been an ongoing thing that we’ve done throughout the whole tournament and before.
“It’s hard to replicate a game situation…but we’ve tried to replicate it as much as possible. I’d say we’re a very experienced group as well, who’ve been involved in things like that, pressure situations. We’ve all been a part of big games, so hopefully when it comes we won’t be as nervous taking them.”
England have been having to cope with a heatwave as they prepare for the Spain match, and their training sessions at their base in Teddington, south-west London, have been adjusted to start earlier than originally scheduled, while the players have been wearing ice jackets afterwards.
As well as that, Hemp has also spoken about what she has been doing during downtime – with Lego being a particular favourite.
“I like to keep myself busy, I quite enjoy my Lego, so I’m always doing that in my room,” she said.
“(Also) paint by numbers, things like that, just to keep me occupied because sometimes I don’t just like sitting there watching TV. Playing table tennis, things like that. I like to just relax and chill – but as soon as game day hits, I’m focused.”
Asked if she had a kit to build a Lego model of Wembley, where the Euros final is being held, Hemp said: “Not at the moment, I’ve struggled to find that. At the moment, I’m doing a typewriter – it’s pretty random! But I just picked the first one I saw and got that sent (to the team’s base).”