| 11.7°C Dublin

Asante thrilled to play a part in captivating women's event

England midfielder Anita Asante does not believe she will ever enjoy an experience like the current World Cup during the rest of her playing career.

The Three Lions are preparing for today's quarter-final against France in Leverkusen knowing they are part of a tournament that has far exceeded expectations.

From the large and enthusiastic crowds to the quality of football on show, the entire competition, give or take a few horrendous refereeing mistakes, has been the perfect antidote to the more cautious and sterile tactics evident in the men's equivalent.

And, unlike their male counterparts in South Africa, England have managed to reach the last eight, top spot in Group B sealed by a fine win over a highly rated Japan outfit on Tuesday.

Now London-born Asante, who plays her club football in America with Sky Blue, is looking to kick on, in front of what she already knows will be an appreciative audience.

"There is so much interest," she said. "The attendances have been absolutely massive. People are coming up to us in the street, asking how things are going and wishing us good luck.


"There is great awareness in the competition. Undoubtedly, it is the biggest tournament I will ever be involved in."

And it is not just the German public who have been captivated by a sport which is showing healthy signs of growth.

"We have seen the general viewing figures across Europe and it is amazing," said 26-year-old Asante.

"Hopefully that is a sign of things to come for the women's game.

"Of course, being successful helps as well but people have been surprised at the standard of play. We are all really happy from that side of things."

Victory today to secure a semi-final encounter with either Brazil or the United States would generate even greater interest.

It will not be easy though. France may have finished runners-up to the hosts in their group but, purely on rankings, they are the favourites to progress.

However, having beaten the US and Sweden in warm-up matches earlier this year, Asante does not feel England should be in awe of anyone.

"Those victories helped us in a lot of different areas," she said. "Our confidence and self-belief improved and that has been evident in our performances in Germany.

"We know we can compete and get results against anybody.

"There is no point getting carried away though. We will have to be at our best to get a result."

England v France

Live, BBC2, 5.0

Irish Independent