The England Under-20s played their first match of the U20 World Cup on Sunday evening, drawing 2-2 with Iraq. James played the full 90 minutes and had a hand in the opening goal of the game for the Young Lions, but there was late disappointment for Ward-Prowse and his teammates, as the midfielder describes:
It's been an intense last week as we entered our final preparations for our first group game against Iraq.
We had to change hotels last Wednesday as we moved from Belek to Antalya where we're currently based at the hotel designated for hosting the four teams in our group. It's quite strange being in and around the teams you're playing against!
You can't fault the hotel, its facilities are superb and it is a great environment for us to prepare ourselves for the matches.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week were really intense days as we focused a lot on all aspects of our game as a team, including set pieces and our counter attacking. On each of the days, we spent the morning getting a bit of fresh air and having a walk around the local area before doing some pre-habilitation work by the pool. This was followed by lunch and then training in the evening at 6pm. It's suited us better training later, because we can condition our bodies better for our matches which are played at around that sort of time.
Saturday came and there was a real buzz around the camp. It seems so long ago since we first got together as a team and we were all champing at the bit to play. Saturday's session was a light one, consisting of working on our shape and again some more set pieces.
The day of the game finally came and everyone was itching to get out and play. The manager called a meeting after lunch where he announced the team and to my delight I was starting the game so that was a great achievement for me – ever since the team got together it was my goal to make the starting eleven, so to achieve that was great.
The game edged closer and we were escorted to it by police – everyone was focused and ready. It was an unbelievable experience from the moment we arrived to the minute we left. We ended up drawing 2-2 when really we should have won the game, but on a personal note I was again pleased with how I performed and pleased to have contributed to our first goal, though it would have been nice to have won.
Every time I walk out of the tunnel in any game, I'm filled with excitement and goosebumps, but last night's match was on another level. To represent your country at a World Cup is the ultimate goal for any footballer, and to finally do it was unforgettable! Hopefully there's a lot more to come.
Even though we didn't get the result we were looking for, it was a valuable experience for me. We were all bitterly disappointed because we saw the game against Iraq as a winnable one. Nevertheless, we've got a point on the board early on which is always important. It was a great atmosphere as there were 3,000 passionate Iraq fans who made it a hostile atmosphere for us - we faced an opposition who many of us have never played against before and the conditions were a lot different to what were used to, but that's the beauty of being an international player.
The following day was purely recovery based. We had a few extra hours in bed followed by a light bike session, a gentle swim and massages to aid recovery. We also had a de-brief from the match, highlighting our strengths and weakness and we now have a platform to build on. Now, is the real test of tournament football, the ability to bounce back from results, recover physically and go again within a matter of days!
England Under-20s are next in action on Wednesday evening when they take on Chile in Antalya. Keep checking saintsfc.co.uk over the coming days for more of James's blogs direct from Turkey.