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Norfolk player’s inside track on England’s World Cup quarter-final opponents Sweden

Vaila Barsley, right, at the Flegg Football Development Centre during a training session back home in Norfolk in December 2016 with Sweden international Annica Svensson Picture: Norfolk FA

Vaila Barsley, right, at the Flegg Football Development Centre during a training session back home in Norfolk in December 2016 with Sweden international Annica Svensson Picture: Norfolk FA

Norfolk FA

Sweden have full belief in their defensive strength ahead of tomorrow’s crunch World Cup quarter-final in Russia, says a Norfolk professional footballer with a foot in both camps.

Vaila Barsley plays in Sweden for Eskilstuna United and represented England at youth level, although she has gone on to become an international with the Scotland women’s team.

Now the 30-year-old defender is gearing up to enjoy the atmosphere in the Scandinavian city she has called home since 2013, which is around an hour’s drive west of Stockholm and has a population of around 100,000.

“In the group stages, especially after the first two games, everyone over here was talking about how good England were and putting them up there as one of the favourites because of the style of play,” the former Flegg High School pupil said.

“But I was talking to some of the girls and they actually preferred to meet England over Colombia because Colombia have more of a counter-attacking style.

Vaila Barsley in action for Scotland during UEFA Women's Euro 2017 Picture: Mike Egerton/PAVaila Barsley in action for Scotland during UEFA Women's Euro 2017 Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

“Sweden are so good defensively, their block of eight with four at the back and four midfielders has been so solid, so I think they are a little bit worried but it’s going to be a tight game.”

MORE: Jubilation across the county as England take penalty win

Born in Boston, Lincolnshire, Barsley qualified to play for Scotland through her mother, Rosemary, but her father, Roger, is English.

Having grown up in Hemsby, playing for Stalham and Lowestoft while with the Norwich City Girls’ Centre of Excellence, Barsley will very much have split loyalties.

Her team-mates were keen to test out her loyalties after seeing Sweden’s men beat Switzerland 1-0 and England’s dramatic penalty shootout victory over Colombia on Tuesday, teeing up tomorrow’s quarter-final in Samara (3pm KO).

“We had double training on Wednesday but obviously I’ve played for Scotland and that rivalry with England is huge,” Barsley continued. “I’ve kind of put my affiliation to Scotland, but I’ve always followed England’s men’s team quite a bit.

“So I got asked straight away at training, my coach said ‘who are you supporting on Saturday?’ and I was like ‘50-50, I’ll be happy for either team’, so it’s going to be a great atmosphere.”

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