Entering the Maccabiah games representing team Great Britain was an indescribable feeling. The long awaited anticipation had finally come to an end as we approached our first match against Australia.
In the build up to the Australia game we identified their first threat, a W League goalkeeper. The W League is the professional league in Australia, which has a huge bundle of talent, the likes of England sensations Jodie Taylor and Natasha Dowie have spent their time in the familiar W League.
Pre match we were given a team talk from a well respected coach and developer of the game, Chris Ramsey. There was a combination of nerves and excitement in the changing room. After Chris Ramsey’s tactical master class, the team prepared both mentally and physically with foam rollers and hydration tablets from our fitness coach Phill Turner. Phill weighed us before and after games to make sure we were fully hydrated, measuring our water levels. The foam rollers were used to break down muscle tightness as we had an influx of fixtures remaining.
Stepping out on the pitch for our first match with the GB over 35’s and 45’s and parents watching in the stands was a proud memorable moment for the team. We wanted to put on a performance for those making an effort to support us in the blistering heat of Jerusalem.
We left the pitch with our first loss of the tournament, I managed to get my team a consolation goal for moral but it wasn’t enough to get anything out of the game. The team had underestimated the ability of the Australians, errors needed to be minimised in order to get a result out the match. The first fixture proved tough and the score line showed a reflexion.
Next up we faced America. The American sides are always ruthless in tournaments. They gain a competitive nature from playing at colleges day in day out. We knew it would be a tough test as we faced a heavy defeat against a strong team of high level athletes. They kept possession and were clinical with their finishes, I couldn’t fault our work rate but we couldn’t compete with their technical ability. A second consecutive defeat in two days was hard to take but we had to accept it and move on quickly.
The fixtures only got increasingly tougher with further losses to Germany and Brazil. Nicola Waxler scored an emphatic goal against the Germans to make it 1-1 but Germany limited our time to stay level as Sharon Beck entered the field.
The German international and professional footballer changed the game dramatically. Germany defeat was the hardest to comprehend, we played excellent as a team but we couldn’t find a solution to stop the powerful strike of Sharon Beck.
The final game came around fast and it was certainly one to remember. We conceded an early goal against Argentina at the start of the game. Zoe Cohen was later taken down in the box with her fast feet, which proved too much for the Argentinians, you would think they would be used to lightning quick feet with the likes of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero.
I stepped up to the spot and converted the penalty to make it 1-1. I was confident I could put away the penalty for my team. It was a huge boast to get us back in the game and showed great character from the squad. Shortly after Argentina took the lead for the second time to make it 2-1, leaving us a tough battle on our hands. Charley Lebetkin got us back level taking the ball round the keeper with a excellent finish to give us a chance in the dying minutes of the match.
The final whistle went and it was time for penalties, something we had practiced in England at the end of every friendly. I stepped up for the first penalty and put the ball past the Argentinian keeper for the second time.
Nicola Waxler, Juliette Westbrook, Goldie Orenstein all converted shortly after. Argentina slipped up which left Sophie Josephs penalty crucial to seal a win over Argentina.
Sophie converted and our team embraced the left footed winger like we had won the world cup. The celebrations were epic. A moment we will never forget and one that defined our Maccabiah experience. We were representing Great Britain and penalties didn’t phase us, it was a special moment, which left us hungry for success for future tournaments.