By Glenn Moore
Maren Mjelde feels fortunate, but nevertheless hopes her luck will change when Chelsea take on Arsenal in the Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday.
“I’ve been lucky to play in the cup final in Norway, the cup final is the biggest day, it gets lots of attention, the day when everyone is watching women’s football,” said Mjelde at a press conference at Chelsea’s Cobham training complex. “I’ve been lucky to play one in Germany, it is a big day there too. But the games did not go so well. I hope it is third time lucky this time.”
Or maybe fourth time lucky. Mjelde’s first final, in Germany, was in 2013 when she was in the Turbine Potsdam side beaten 3-2 by Wolfsburg. Two years later she again lost 3-2, for Avaldsnes against LSK Kvinner in Norway. But there was also the small matter of the European Championship final, in 2013. Again she was on the losing side, for Norway against Germany, being defeated 1-0.
There were 41,301 in Stockholm that day, the biggest crowd Mjelde has so far experienced. The attendance at Wembley is expected to exceed that and the 28-year-old believes she and her team-mates will be inspired, rather than intimidated, by the size of the crowd.
“We don’t often play in front of 40,000 people, but for us it is about enjoying the moment. We are talking about how much we are looking forward to it, so I don’t think we will be scared. We have a lot of international players who have played in front of similar crowds at World Cups and European Championship. The 2013 final was a massive experience for me and I am looking forward to something similar.”
“This competition is something I sold Maren on when I brought her to the club,” said Chelsea manager Emma Hayes. “I told her it is a wonderful day in the English calendar.”
“I’ve played those [domestic] finals before, but it is a step up to play at Wembley,” added Mjelde. “There are a lot of jealous people in Norway. There are not many Norwegian people to have played at Wembley. People want to be in my position and I feel lucky.”
The only Norwegian woman footballer to have played at Wembley to date is Andrine Hegerberg for Birmingham City against Manchester City last year. Inevitably she was on the losing side.
Mjelde, who has had a good season for Chelsea, initially in midfield, then in defence, believes she can buck the personal and national trend. She said: “Arsenal is a good team, but we are confident, we know we are a good team. We don’t fear Arsenal. Football is what we do best.”