Fulham and England star Katie Chapman is in for a nerve-wracking night on Thursd
Fulham and England star Katie Chapman is in for a nerve-wracking night on Thursday as her England team-mates take on France at Selhurst Park in the first leg of the World Cup play-off final.
England v France
FIFA 2003 Women's World Cup Play-off Final
Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace FC
Thursday 17th October 2002, 7.45pm kick off
The pregnant star is currently taking a break from all football as she prepares for her first child, which is due in April, but Chapman has set her sights on returning in time for the finals in China next summer, so long as the Three Lions can overcome the French.
"I am hoping that they win," Chapman told TheFA.com "I will be there on Thursday and it is quite nerve-wracking to be watching the game but I really just hope they win."
Chapman suffered the nerve jangling feeling of watching her team-mates in the recent Play-Off Semi-Final game against Iceland, an experience that she did not enjoy until the final whistle that signalled England's progress.
"I didn't really like watching it, I would rather be playing. I was delighted for the girls as it was a pretty hard game but I'm just glad that they pulled through in the end."
The England players performed heroically to squeeze through against Iceland, but France are a different prospect altogether and caused a surprise by beating Denmark in their semi-final. And with players of the quality of striker Marinette Pinchon, who plays with Kelly Smith for Philadelphia Charge, central defenders Faye White and Mary Phillip will have to be on top of their game if they are to stop France grabbing an all important away goal. Having been beaten by France two years ago in a friendly in front of 45,000 people, Chapman knows that they will provide stern opposition.
"We lost 1-0 in that game. They have always been a strong side so I think it will be a hard game but I think that we will give as good as we get."
Playing the second leg in France is another factor that England will have to overcome if they are to progress and Chapman feels that makes an England win on Thursday imperative.
"I think it is important to go out and win this game with the home crowd because I think away there will be a lot of pressure if we get a draw here or lose."
But despite missing key players, the tough opposition and playing the second leg in France, Chapman is in confident mood and believes that not only can England win this game, we are also closing the gap on the traditional powerhouses in the women's game.
"We have got the players who can fill in and we are all quality players at the end of the day so I've got no doubts about it. The players are all full of pride and passion and love to play for their country so I am sure they will go out there and do their best.
"It would be great for England to get to China and prove a point," she added. "We are catching up a lot on other nations and Hope Powell is bringing young players in as well which is good, the team is changing all the time."
Chapman has a simple message of encouragement for the girls as they bid to qualify for the World Cup Finals, something that the Fulham star would love to happen.
"I would just like to say to them to go out with pride and passion and just win really, just get to China."
If England do win then the influential Chapman will be back in the frame for World Cup selection - with the finals taking place five months after she's due to give birth. "I would love to be there, of course I would love to be there. It will be a while after the birth so I should be fit but only if they England want me."
If England do make it through to China next summer then for Chapman it will definitely be a case of your country needs you.
Tickets are still available for the match on Thursday 17th October at Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park ground. Tickets are priced at £3 for adults and £1 for children/OAPs from the Crystal Palace FC ticket hotline on 020 8771 8841 or by fax on 020 8653 4708 or via the website: www.cpfc.co.uk. Prices on the day will increase to £5 adults/£1 concessions. Groups of ten or more will be entitled to a 25 per cent discount, by way of a booking form obtained by Crystal Palace or by calling 020 8563 9147.