Date: 18th August 2016 at 3:31pm
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England have long qualified for next summer’s Euros, with a stellar group campaign so far – six games played, no defeats, 25 goals scored, one conceded.

That does not mean they’re easing up on preparation for their game against Estonia next month. Instead, the squad met up this month for a week-long training camp to ensure they’re ready for that – and to start preparing for their trip to the Netherlands in 2017.

“A lot of the focus this week is on the physical side,” says centre-half Laura Bassett.

“We’re trying to push in that area. This is the first camp where we know we’ve qualified.

“Because there are no fixtures [to play immediately], that gives us a chance to work on other areas: the physical side, team development, how we operate, how we get on.

“It’s a great opportunity for us all to have a break from our club football and reconnect as an international team.”

Bassett and her team-mates have put up with the erratic Women’s Super League fixture schedule for years now, but as she explains, the inconsistent way that matches are spread out means that players have to take more responsibility for their own physical fitness and training regime.

“We have a responsibility to ourselves to keep ourselves fit and in as much condition as we can,” she added.

“Some clubs have been playing friendlies or in-house games, and there are ways around it, and that’s the way to be ready for your next competitive game.”

Of course, they’ve also been enjoying the football on the television – watching the women’s football competition in the Olympics, and wondering what might have been.

Team GB’s footballing success at London 2012 was a one-off – the governing bodies could not agree on how the home nations might come together in future to organise Olympic qualifying and attendance, so it’s simply not happening.

Photo: Marc Atkins / Offside.

The 33-year-old would have liked the chance to represent Team GB at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games this summer – Photo: Marc Atkins / Offside.

England would have qualified outright for the Olympics following their third-place finish at the 2015 Women’s World Cup; in their absence, Sweden took their slot and made the final, where they will face Germany.

“Sweden have done fantastically to get to the final, and an all-European final is fantastic for the game,” says Bassett.

“There have been some great games and I think it’s been a great showcase for women’s football, but it is disappointing we’re not a part of it.

“It does fuel us to make sure our preparation is even more on the Euros – that’s something we can control, that’s something we want to be so prepared and ready for.”

Bassett is insistent that England want to finish their qualification campaign on a high, regardless of whether or not the result matters – and regardless of who comes back to Europe with a gold medal around their necks.

“While they’re still in Olympics mode and have the after-effects of that, we’re rest-focused,” she says.

“Our sole concern is now the Euros.”

England play Estonia at Meadow Lane, Notts County FC, on Thursday, September 15.

* ‘The Roar of the Lionesses: Women’s Football in England’ is out now – available in all good bookshops *

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