England’s World Cup dreams are over after going down 0-1 to France in Sai
England’s World Cup dreams are over after going down 0-1 to France in Saint Etienne on Saturday 16th October, losing 0-2 on aggregate. France have taken the last UEFA qualifying spot and will compete in the 16-nation World Cup Finals in China in September 2003.England Coach Hope Powell was disappointed, but praised her team for their commitment over the 18-month qualifying campaign.
"The players were upset, disappointed. There was probably a bit of realisation that we should have done better in the first game."
After losing 0-1 to France in the home leg at Selhurst Park, England travelled to France on October 16th looking for some goals to get them back into the reckoning. But they were without their three best players - Kelly Smith and Faye White (cruciate ligament injury) and Katie Chapman (pregnancy). France were, however, at full strength for the match.
France were cheered on by a vociferous crowd of over 23,000, smashing the previous national record for a women's football match that stood at 9,500. But England silenced them with some good early play and had the upper hand in the opening 20 minutes.
However, France began to settle and, quick on the counter-attack, they often pressed the re-shuffled England back-four - missing the calming influence of Faye White, who suffered a cruciate ligament rupture two weeks previous.
France's goal came on 54 minutes. A Stephanie Mugneret shot was punched clear by 'keeper Pauline Cope, but only as far as the French captain Corinne Diacre who controlled the ball and put her shot into the bottom right corner.
The French crowd went mad and it was always going to be an uphill struggle for England to come back.
Powell introduced fresh legs into the midfield with Sue Smith, Karen Burke and later Vicky Exley, but they couldn't break down the France midfield.
The result means that England do not have any fully competitive matches until they kick-off the 6th UEFA European Championships, which England will host in summer 2005. Friendlies will be arranged, however, and will be announced once confirmed.
England: Pauline Cope, Rachel Unitt, Mary Phillip, Casey Stoney, Rachel MacArthur, Rachel Yankey (sub 75 mins Sue Smith), Fara Williams (sub 84 mins Vicky Exley), Sammy Britton, Kristy Moore, Karen Walker (c), Amanda Barr (sub 56 mins Karen Burke) Subs: Rachel Brown, Leanne Champ, Carly Hunt, Jody Handley