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England goalkeeper Rachel Brown is adamant that the best form is yet to come from a buoyant squad ahead of their quarter final against Finland.
England take on the Euro 2009 hosts on Thursday afternoon and, following their 1-1 draw with Sweden, Rachel said: "We are in a tournament and what matters most is getting out of the group and making the knockout stages, we have done that even though we have yet to play at our best and I definitely think this team has a lot more to offer this tournament.
"Our form has been a little patchy, but I think last night (against Sweden) we were a lot more tighter defensively and much harder to break down. I think I made two or three saves in the whole game and this was against one of the world's best teams, so I think we have improved on the defensive side of our game and that's something we have been looking at.
"We have good attacking players that can change games and hopefully this will prove important in the knockout stages."
Rachel also praised the courage of the squad in a week where the character of the team has been tested. "We came into this tournament with high expectations and we got off to the worst possible start against Italy," she said, "being reduced to ten players and then losing the game hurt us and put pressure on us going into the Russia game. That game didn't go our way at the start, but this team seems to play better under pressure when we are up against it and I thought coming back from 2-0 down to win the game showed the capability and toughness of our team.
"We've had to overcome obstacles already in the tournament and we are still in it, looking forward to a huge quarter final."
On facing tournament hosts Finland, Rachel insisted the whole squad was focused: "Finland will be a tough test for us after Sweden and there will be no complacency from us. Perhaps we underestimated Italy slightly and if anything, looking back, that was a wake-up call to us. We will not be underestimating any team again at this tournament, especially a host nation who have been playing good football and will have a capacity crowd behind them.
"We need to take our performance against Sweden, improve on it where we can and make sure we do the right things against Finland. It has the potential to be a great game in front of a big crowd and we will be up for it, as will they. There's a semi final stake at place now and everyone is focused on Thursday afternoon."
Rachel admits that getting to the semi finals will be a huge achievement in her England career. "We didn't make it out of the group stage in 2005, it was disappointing and ironic that we actually needed a result against Sweden in our last game then as we did yesterday, but this time we got it. We did well to reach the quarter finals in China but this would be a huge step for us now.
"Getting to the semis will hopefully show how much we've improved over the last four years and that all the hard work we have done in getting here has been worth it. We need to make all that work done by the management, the staff and the players count on Thursday night.
"This is the position we wanted to be in and we have to grab it with both hands."
Meanwhile England captain Faye White, the goalscorer against Sweden, admitted that adrenalin was still flowing through her for a long time after the game. "I didn'tget to sleep until 3am this morning after last night's game," she recalled.
"It's always hard after a match, some players manage to drift off but I found myself listening to music and surfing the internet, willing my eyes to close but I was just too wired from the game to be able to shut them. I woke up about 8am this morning and felt a mixture of elation and relief.
"Elation because I felt we had put in a performance against a top side that we could be happy about and relief because despite the see-saw ride of the past week, we had made it through a pretty tricky group and could look forward to a date with the hosts on Thursday, in our first European quarter final since 1995.
"I think we can be honest and say there were a lot of improvements to be made across the team after our opening two games, we didn't put ourselves in a great position but I think everyone was a lot happier after last night's game, though I still think there is much more to come from us.
"We are now focused on Finland here in Turku in a couple of days. Playing the host nation at a major tournament is always special and the squad is looking forward to the game. I'm sure there will be a capacity crowd which means the atmosphere will be pretty hot. I think it has a capacity of around 8,000 but I am sure the Finns would fill that three times over if the capacity was more, so it will be a huge test for us.
"It would be criminal to underestimate the Finnish team and we've already had a meeting about that this morning. The hard work starts now and we have a real opportunity to put a marker down in this competition and do well. The Finns will come prepared and have a good crowd behind them, but if we play to our capabilities and take our performance from last night into the game, I'm sure we have a good chance of progressing.
"We are now at the business end of this tournament and we cannot wait for Thursday afternoon."
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