ZEIST, Netherlands: An equestrian rider as a child, Millie Bright opted for football before becoming the rock of England’s back four at the women’s Euro in the Netherlands.
Her hard tackling style has helped England to three clean sheets in four games so far with the Lionesses’ eyes on a historic success as they get ready for a semi-finals against the hosts.
“It shows how far we’ve come as a unit, as a back four, and as a squad as well,” says the 23-year-old Chelsea defender.
England thrashed Scotland and cruised past Spain before sinking Portugal with a much-changed team and edging France 1-0 in the quarter-finals.
“They’ve all been pretty equal to be fair, but each opponent brings different threats and obviously France were a top team, we knew they were going to bring threats,” said Bright.
“We stayed tight as a unit and defended when we needed to defend.
“If you can do that it shows you can compete with the best and you can keep a clean sheet against top opponents.”
Playing her first major international tournament, Bright, who has teamed up with skipper Steph Houghton at the back, prefers a tough, no-nonsense style.
“I think positioning is your main base to start with and then everything else just falls into place, but I try not to overthink it,” she said.
“I just go into the game and just give myself a couple of points and then just go off those because if you give yourself too much thinking about then that’s where the mistakes start coming in so I’m trying to keep it very basic.
“When I get in there I want to win my battles and I never hesitate to go in for a challenge.
“I try and play with no fear at all, just making sure that if I stick to what I know I can do, then everything else will fall into place.”
“You have to make the strikers almost fear you and make it difficult for them to get on the ball and make them want to go into different areas,” said Bright, who looks up to Chelsea star John Terry.
“He’s been a massive defender for me, and obviously he’s a rock and he’s really good at doing his one-on-one defending and really reading the game. I’ve watched a lot of his clips.”
Bright did equestrian until age nine, when she decided to concentrate on football in her home city of Sheffield.
“We got to the point where I had to put my all into either one and obviously I can go back to equestrian when I’m retired,” said Bright, who enjoys considerable family support at the tournament, including from grandad Arthur.
“He’s the guy I go to for football talk, he gives me an honest opinion on the game and on my performance,” she said.
“I really respect him for that, and I think that’s really helped develop me as a player and a person, to be honest with myself.
“He’s just as competitive as me and he wants me to succeed.”
The former miner will be in the stands on Thursday when England face the Netherlands in Enschede, watching Bright take on the potent Dutch attack led by young gun Vivianne Miedema.
“She’s a big threat, obviously we’ve watched her previous games at the tournament,” said Bright.
“We’ll just focus on ourselves and make sure we stick to our game plan and then hopefully that should not be a worry.”
Bright added she expected a “very tough game”.
“They’re very attacking-minded, they get around the pitch well, so we’re looking for a very high-paced game, but I think we’ve shown that we can play both types of game.
“They’re not afraid of a challenge, a very strong team, looking to get the ball forward. It’ll be an interesting game.”