Following her team's 1-0 win over Iceland yesterday, England Women's coach Hope
Following her team's 1-0 win over Iceland yesterday, England Women's coach Hope Powell was pleased for her players that they can still set their sights on a place in the World Cup Finals in China next year:
"I'm delighted for the girls, they've worked so hard.
"Even when it could have so easily gone against us, they only had to score one goal and they would have camped 11 players behind the ball and you know that is difficult to score against.
"Sammy Britton was going loopy on the bench saying I can't take it and that is how passionate they are about it and obviously when we scored you could see the delight on everybody's face."
But Hope knows that the job of qualifying for the far east will now get even more difficult, as the prospect of France in the play-off final is know realised; "They worked hard to be in this position and they are going to have to work hard again if they want to get to the World Cup. France want to go there as much as we do so we are just pleased to get this far."
At St Andrews on Sunday, England were quick out of the blocks and looked to secure the win early. First half chances fell to Yankey, Barr and Burke and the home side looked in a commanding position and should have enjoyed a lead at the break. Powell was surprised that it was Iceland were not champing at the bit from the first whistle as her girls were, but knew thay would be a major threat for large periods during the 90 minutes.
She added, "I thought in the first half they would come out guns blazing but I think tactically they got it right. They bided their time and tried to catch us on the break.
"When we scored you felt this relief. It was a lot to do with nerves but all credit to Iceland who were a good side."
But it was always going to be a tough game for England who were without key players such as Katie Chapman and long-term absentee Kelly Smith, then news of Karen Walker's suspension came as a further blow, but the young strike-force of Amanda Barr and Jody Handley left with the job of shooting down Iceland were very busy throughout and created a number of great chances; "I think that Jody did well, she battled, Amanda Barr scored the goal, she had an opportunity to score a couple. Jody could have scored a couple also,
"But obviously Kaz [Karen Walker], hugely experienced and she scored two cracking goals in Iceland, was missed because of experience and because she adds another dimension to our game."
The more opportunities the likes of Handley and Barr get will only be a good thing for England as Powell tries to limit the future affects of this level of squad depletion: "What we are trying to do is build a big enough squad so that if this does happen, and it will happen again, that we have got the players who can come in and do equally as well.
"Sue Smith was out with an injury for a while and we dealt with that, Kelly Smith is out with injury and we had to deal with that, Katie Chapman is out, we had to deal with that, Pauline was out the last game we had to deal with that, Rachel Yankey was struggling second half and we had to deal with that so there will always be those things. We are trying to get a big enough squad together so that players can slot in and I think that today proved that we are getting that way."
Another bonus from the game was the performance of skipper for the day Faye White. The Arsenal defender slipped in to the armband in the absence of Karen Walker and was positive in her tackling and passing from the start, and Powell was delighted for her: "She played very very well today. I'm very pleased for her actually. Her attitude has been magnificant, I would say she has been the ultimate professional and I think she really enjoyed being the captain today and she is young enough to grow in stature in that position."
White herself was happy by the way she performed and enjoyed leading the team out, but is prepared to hand it back to see Walker back in the side.
"It's a shame that Kaz wasn't there because she got us that result as well so I think it is a team and squad performance. It was great to wear the armband and I'm going to relish that moment forever but I'm just glad for the team as a whole that we are through to the next play-off game against France."
"I think that if Kaz is playing then I think she probably will have it back because she is such a bubbly figure and she has done it so well for so long but even if I don't have the armband I will be trying to display the kind of responsibilities that go with it to make sure that we get through to the World Cup. I've got time on my side."
So the focus is now trained on October and November's two-legged play-off against the French, with one eye maybe sneaking a glimpse at China and the World Cup...