*As England draws 0-0 against France
Nigerian and Chelsea star, Eniola Aluko won 100th international cap when England Women drew 0-0 against France on Wednesday
Aluko was brought in at the 56th minute of the final game of the tournament in the United States and was immediately given the captain’s armband to mark the milestone.
The Chelsea Ladies forward is the 10th player to reach the milestone for the Lionesses, with skipper Katie Chapman only a few caps away from joining her on that list.
She made a difference too in what was an improved England performance in the second half of the match. Chapman went as close as anyone to scoring with a shot just wide.
She started the game, as did Claire Rafferty, with Karen Carney introduced late on to complete the Chelsea involvement.
The draw means England finish third in the strong tournament below Germany and the United States.
Aluko made her debut for England against Holland in 2004 when she was 17 and a year later she took part in the European Championship while taking her A-Levels, with her first international goal coming in a friendly before the tournament.
The 29-year-old has appeared at two other Euros with her country, scoring three times in 2009 including a fantastic solo goal against Finland, as well as three World Cups.
She was England’s top scorer in qualifying ahead of their historic third-place finish in Canada last year.
Speaking about the milestone before the England squad’s departure for the USA, Aluko said: ‘To say I’d be proud is an understatement.
It gives me goosebumps whenever somebody says it to me. Genuinely, when I made my debut for England at 17, I never, ever thought I’d make it to 100 caps.
‘It wasn’t something I felt was achievable, it was just one cap at a time. To be here over 11 years later talking about 100 caps makes me emotional. I’m really pleased.
It will be an amazing achievement for me, my family and everybody who has been involved in the long journey and the ups and downs of being an international footballer.’
Manager Emma Hayes also reflected on the milestone achieved by a player she re-signed for the Ladies in 2013 and who subsequently played a pivotal role in the Blues’ Double success last season.
She was named Player of the Match in the first FA Women’s Cup final held at Wembley Stadium.
‘It is a wonderful achievement and I’m really proud of her for reaching this significant milestone,’ said Hayes of Aluko, who joins Hedvig Lindahl and Karen Carney as an international centurions currently playing for Chelsea.
‘Eni is a highly intelligent person who has managed to enjoy a fantastic international career, which has taken her across the world, as well as becoming a qualified solicitor at the same time.
“She is a born winner and she makes no apology for it.
‘It’s a real honour for Eni, her family and this football club. She’s a great ambassador for Chelsea Football Club and we’re so happy to share this wonderful moment with her.’
Not content with reaching a century of international caps, Aluko has now set her sights on becoming the Lionesses all-time leading scorer. She requires another 13 goals to overhaul Kelly Smith’s tally.
‘I’m all about targets and goals and trying to achieve something that emulates something someone else has done,’ she said. ‘Kelly has scored 46 and I’m on 34 so it’s not impossible. It’s going to be tough but I always look to get better and you can only do that by looking at the best. Kelly was certainly one of the best.
‘I’m in the best form of my career so I’m not going to stop now. There’s huge ambition to win for England and, more than ever, we’re in a position to do that. We are in the best position we’ve ever been to win a major tournament and I want to be part of that.’
– The Chelsea Ladies team are in action this Sunday when they play a pre-season game at Staines, with plenty of family fun activities guaranteed.