By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Defending champions the United States are in their own private ‘bubble’, shutting out any distraction ahead of the women’s World Cup starting in France on Friday, and loving it.
Using Premier League Tottenham Hotspur’s lush training facility in North London for their pre-tournament camp, the team say they have been able to concentrate on the job in hand undisturbed.
“We try to create this bubble when you come into here and the focus has been extraordinary,” USWNT head coach Jill Ellis told reporters.
“Our trainings here have been fantastic.”
The three times champions, favorites for a fourth, sued their soccer federation in March with allegations of gender discrimination and complaints about lower wages and unfavorable working conditions.
The move has generated plenty of headlines, controversy and discussion but the players say all that has been left outside with the distant rumble of traffic.
“It’s not discussed, it’s not talked about,” said British-born Ellis. “That’s to play out another time, but not right now. Everything’s about trying to get us to the top of the podium.”
Versatile defender Crystal Dunn, a former Chelsea player, agreed.
“We have everything that we possibly need here. So for us it’s like we can’t help but come together, because we don’t need to leave,” she said of the harmony in the camp.
“All of the conversations basically when we got here have been ‘how can we not succeed with everything that’s given to us?’,” she added.
The U.S. team are not in action until June 11, when they have what should be a soft opening fixture against Thailand in Reims. They face Chile and Sweden in their remaining group matches.
By the time they head to France on Friday, they will have been at Tottenham’s training center — which boasts 15 grass pitches — for 10 days.
“It’s been no secret that we’ve had a lot of distractions, both good and bad… with everything that’s happened in the last couple of months it has been a big pull on a lot of the players,” said co-captain Megan Rapinoe.
“So to be able to come here and not have any of that, the place is absolutely gorgeous. Usually we get a couple of days in the camp and we’re, like, ready to get out and getting all crazy. And nobody’s really wanted to leave.
“I think you kind of felt the group kind of give that collective sigh, just being able to be here without much distraction and really just focus on everything you want to have.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)