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Dieke finally reaches end of long road to recovery

Ifeoma Dieke last night revealed that losing out on the chance to play against Brazil in front of a 70,000 crowd at Wembley was one of many low points following an injury which left her career in the balance.

The 90-time capped defender hasn't played since 2012
The 90-time capped defender hasn't played since 2012

The Scotland defender, whose 33rd birthday was last week, ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament in the second game of the 2012 London Olympics. The non-contact injury, against Cameroon, cost the defender her place in the Team GB side against the Brazilians - a match which drew a record crowd for women's football in the UK.

Speaking in Cyprus, where she is set to resume her 90-cap Scotland career after a gap of 23 months, Dieke recalled: "While my team-mates were travelling back to the athletes village in London, I was on a plane home to Scotland. No disrespect to the Millennium Stadium, where the first two games were played, but playing Brazil at Wembley is every footballer's dream.

"I wanted to be at the game even as a spectator, and my brother had tickets, but I was on crutches and the surgeon advised me to keep the swelling down. So, instead, I ended up watching it on television in Cumbernauld."

There was a further huge blow for Dieke, who was born in America to Nigerian parents but grew up here, when Scotland drew Spain in the Euro 2013 play-offs. In a bid to help them qualify, the Scottish FA made Hampden available for the first leg.

"In eight years playing for Scotland I've never played at Hampden," said Dieke. "That was bad enough, but then I had to watch the second leg in Madrid on a live stream. We were about to go through to the finals in Sweden when Spain scored with the last kick. Listening to the commentator I couldn't imagine what my team-mates were going through. I couldn't do anything at rehab the next day because of the pain of knowing two years of hard work had disappeared in seconds. The whole experience of trying to get back to fitness, working at it six days a week for a year, left me exhausted. I went through a phase where I didn't know if I wanted to come back."

Dieke only started training with her Swedish club, Vittsjo, last August but played out of position at left back. She rejoined the club in December after weighing up her options and has played two friendly matches in central defence ahead of the new season starting next month.

She has also been recalled to Anna Signeul's squad for the annual Cyprus Cup, which kicks off today when Scotland play tournament favourites France in a Group B match in Larnaca. She is unlikely to start but it is just the first of four games in eight days and Dieke will be given chances to get her international career back on track.

"I've been on 90 caps for a long time," she said, having played her last match 23 months ago against the Republic of Ireland. "I feel as if the spark has returned. There's no doubt that a serious injury is a test of your mental strength. Although they are unfortunately prevalent among women footballers you can't understand the anguish that comes with it until it happens to you.

"I am much more aware of how lucky I am just to be doing what I love. I now realise it can be taken away from you in an instant. I was riding the crest of a wave in the build up to that match against Brazil. But I started the Olympic journey and nobody can take that away from me - I got to experience things others never will. I remember my mum telling me football was just a hobby. Then I got my first contract and I've made a career out of football. I've been lucky but I've also worked hard for it."

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