England Women face another tough friendly international on Tuesday as they take
England Women face another tough friendly international on Tuesday as they take on World Cup quarter-finalists Russia in Moscow. It will be the fifth World Cup finalist that England have faced in a row as they prepare for the Euro 2005 Finals, which they will host. Catherine Etoe reviews the match for TheFA.com:
How do you bounce back from a 7-1 hiding in the quarterfinals of the World Cup, albeit from the eventual champions? Well, Russia are hoping to show England how this Tuesday, when they host Hope Powell's squad in Moscow for a friendly as part of the build up to Euro 2005. Yuri Bystritsky's side reached the World Cup as one of Europe's four automatic qualifiers.
Once there, they finished second in their group and equalled their '99 World Cup achievements by reaching the quarterfinals.
A match up against Germany in the quarters is not the ideal yardstick to judge their performance by, although they held Tina Theune-Meyer's team to 1-0 at half time.
More insightful was Russia's group play against China, Ghana and the team England most recently beat at Burnley FC's Turf Moor, Australia.
An own goal ensured a narrow 2-1 win over the Matildas, but their victory over Ghana was a more emphatic 3-0. Those games revealed a side that relies on tactics more than technique, but defends hard and hits on the break.
Having played Russia in the tournament and England in that friendly at Turf Moor, Australia midfielder Joanne Peters says: "The Russians are very calm and effective in their tactics of holding the pressure and counter attacking with a few good players."
But she added: "England's a pretty young team so if they can handle that mental side of things then I think their skills should dominate."
Russia's cautiousness did them few favours in the final group match against China, which would have sent them to the top of the table if they'd won.
In her technical report on that 1-0 loss, published on FIFA's website, Scotland coach Vera Pauw said: "They had the edge going into the match and immediately left the initiative to China, partly due to the fact that they seemed to be playing too defensive at the back."
The media was asked to leave 15 minutes into Russia's training session before that match at Portland's PGE Park.
But the good humoured hybrid rugby-basketball game played during that warm up displayed a close knit unit despite an age range of 16 to 37.
Pre-quarterfinal talk centred on the veterans, chief among them defender and captain Marina Burakova, 37, midfielder Alexandra Svetlitskaya, 32, and striker Natalia Barbachina, 30.
But post-match analysis picked out the youngest player in the team and tournament, 16-year-old striker Elena Danilova.
As half-time substitute, her only run out in the World Cup, she scored a spectacular consolation goal after turning the German defence and squeezing a shot past keeper of the tournament, Silke Rottenberg.
Bystritsky said afterwards: "We selected her because of her talent and we gave her the opportunity to show herself and she did."
Danilova was barely a teenager when England drew 1-1 to Russia in their last meeting, the 2001 European Championships in Germany.
But she could feature against England next week as Bystritsky says: "We can try out our young players there."
Russia currently top their Euro 2005 qualifying group and the coach says the World Cup has given them even more experience at the top level.
Which should please coach Hope Powell, who says she wants to use friendlies against teams with major tournament experience to prepare her own side for Euro 2005, which England hosts.
But having played both England and Russia within a matter of weeks, Germany defender Kerstin Stegemann agrees with Peters.
"The English team is probably better than the Russians, particularly offensively," she said. "The strikers are better so England should have a good shot at beating them."