England striker Beth Mead says football is her “safe space” against challenges off the pitch and she uses it to bounce back from disappointments.
Mead, who was left out of Team Britain’s Olympic squad last year, is joint-top scorer at Euro 2022 ahead of Sunday’s final against Germany.
The prospect of winning a first major tournament and the Golden Boot is not taken for granted by Mead.
“Football is my safe space, a place where I can escape sometimes,” she said.
“Probably watching me play football, everything was fine and dandy because everything was going well. I struggled off the pitch this year.
“I had a lot of support around me who helped me. I guess I used my football to get rid of the emotions I had off the pitch. »
The Arsenal striker responded impressively to the Olympic setback and personal challenges of last year.
Alongside a stellar season in the Women’s Super League, Mead continued to deliver for England under Sarina Wiegman.
She scored four goals in a 10-0 World Cup qualifier win over North Macedonia in April, after netting a hat-trick at Wembley in the win over Northern Ireland and in the win of November against Latvia.
Mead currently tops the Euro 2022 goalscoring charts alongside Germany’s Alexandra Popp with six goals and three assists in five starts.
“I was frustrated at times last year and wanted to play better, but that’s easier said than done. You want to go out there and do your best, but sometimes things don’t always go well,” Mead said.
“I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and thinking a lot about a lot of things. Enjoying and playing freely was the most important thing that helped me this year. »
- The German Popp to conquer the Euro
- 10 years, six defining moments
- “We will not forget those who came before us”
“It became easy to talk to each other”
Mead has previously said playing “angry” and having fire in her stomach helped her get back into shape.
But the prolific winger no longer feels he has to be.
“I wouldn’t say I’m angry anymore. I channeled my energy in the right way and was able to put it more consistently on the pitch,” she added.
As the British team competed in the Olympics, Mead followed the England men to Euro 2020 and received advice from former Lionesses during the final.
“Obviously, that was the point where I was a bit disappointed. They just told me to put my head down, work hard and enjoy playing again,” Mead said.
“It’s something I’ve done this season. I feel good since this advice. »
The culture that Wiegman fostered in the English camp helped Mead’s “safe place” to thrive.
“When we talk to each other, it’s because we want the best in everyone. In the past, maybe we took it a bit personally, but now we know it’s for the greater cause of the team,” Mead said.
“Things are much better since Sarina’s arrival. We did things off the pitch that made us more comfortable with each other.
“We really have confidence in what we say and that it won’t go any further. It became easy to talk to each other. »
- Germany’s ‘fear factor’ of 2009 is gone
- “Sorry guys, we’re all sold” – Stanway in the final
“I loved being in the men’s final”
England staged a final with Germany after beating Sweden 4-0 in the semi-finals, but Mead said it “didn’t seem real” until days later.
It was the perfect way to cap off what she describes as “a great year of growth.”
“It’s been a journey but being here, participating in the Euros, it was a dream come true for me with the disappointment of last year,” she added.
“It’s special to play for your country but also in front of your family and friends – people who mean the most to you and who have been there through good times and bad. »
Mead admitted she didn’t think she would make a Euro final herself as she watched the men in their penalty shootout loss to Italy last year.
“I loved the final, the atmosphere was crazy. It was a night I remembered for a long time,” Mead said.
“I didn’t think a year later I would be in the final at Wembley playing for my country, but dreams can come true.
“I really hope we can create those memories. »