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Duggan never lost hope against Russia

Toni Duggan's last-second equalizer temporarily saved England's Euro 2013 hopes. (Photo copyright Harjeet Johal for The Equalizer)

LINKOPING, Sweden — Facing sure elimination from the 2013 European Championships England scored a late equalizer with 30 seconds left in stoppage time on Monday against Russia, at Linkoping, Arena. With her mother in the crowd, Toni Duggan converted a deflected Kelly Smith pass to save England’s bacon.

England had to settle for another disappointing result at Euro 2013, but as they woke up the next morning players were glad to still be alive in the tournament.

Duggan talked about how big her marker was, and where it ranks in terms of goals scored in her career.

“It’s got to be up there in the top three. I think I scored a special one against New Zealand it was basically we were going home the next day same again it was the last-minute, the last kick at the ball and I scored. We went through to the quarter-finals so that was definitely a highlight but doing it with the senior European Championship it’s got to be up there.”

Having England dominate large portions of the first half, and simply not show up in the second half caused coach Hope Powell to make a few substitutions to her lineup as Russia clanged to a 1-0 advantage. Duggan replaced Steph Houghton, and Kelly Smith made a showing despite not being fully fit to play. Powell was banking on Smith and Duggan to create something up top. Although Duggan hit the crossbar in the 90th minute, she remained focused and determined to help her team find that elusive goal.

“People have said when you hit the crossbar did you think it wasn’t your day…. but not once did that cross my mind. I kept believing positive, and I kept saying the goal will come whether that’d be from me or from another teammate. I still believed that it would come, and if you have that belief then finally things will work out and it did.”

England has been slow out of the gate in both matches at Euro 2013. Hope Powell has said, the team is not at their best. England can’t afford to wait any longer to step up and deliver a win. If they don’t beat France on Thursday night at Linkoping, Arena they will go home far earlier than anyone predicted. Pundits, fans, and British media here in Sweden have all been clamoring for Powell to make some changes to her starting lineup and inject some youth with the likes of Jordan Nobbs and Duggan.

The Everton Ladies forward had this to say when asked about seeing herself, and Nobbs added to the starting eleven.

“We’ve had some young players play and obviously Sophie Bradley was unfortunate to get injured, but she’s been a massive part of this campaign. I think young people have had the chances but that’s Hope’s decision at the end of the day. Obviously there are youngsters on the bench who are ready, and willing to come on. You speak about Jordan Nobbs, I think she’s a great player, I’ve grown up in the system and she’d be fantastic for the team.”

Timing seems to be a major focus of what England needs to improve on if they hope to advance to the quarter-finals. Duggan can’t pinpoint what exactly what went wrong against Spain, and Russia but she is hopeful her team can turn it around and find someway to advance on Thursday night.

“I think it’s just a case of timing, obviously the first game maybe there were a few nerves and stuff. The second game I don’t really know what went wrong to be honest but credit to Spain, and credit to Russia, they stopped us from playing and they mastered their game plan,” Dugan said. “We’ve just got to get out there and train now, and believe that going into the game against France that we can win it and we can move on to bigger and better things.”

Whether it be men’s or women’s football, England never seem to make anything easy on themselves. With the Euro 2013 door halfway shut the Lionesses will have to perform and overcome what they are lacking. France may sit some of their star players, but even a sub-par French side is potent enough to send England home, and that’s likely more than enough motivation for Les Bleues on Thursday.

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