Lions 'excited' by last eight clash
Thursday, 03 September, 2009
Hope Powell is confident her side will cope with a partisan Finnish crowd.
Hope Powell arrived at the UEFA pre-match press conference ahead of her team’s Euro 2009 quarter final clash with Finland and she was excited about the challenge that lay ahead.
“This is a massive game for both teams," she said.
"The squad is excited about playing the host nation in a major tournament, and it will be huge test, but one that will serve them with great experience.”
In responding to questions on whether the home crowd will be an advantage to the opposition, Powell was clear on how she felt her team would cope.
“We are used to playing in front of big crowds and noisy atmospheres. We play some of our best football under pressure and I expect my team to cope with that. Am I concerned it will work in their favour? Well, we played in front 19,000 French fans in Rennes and we got a result there to qualify for the last World Cup in China, so I think we have some good experience in that department.
"The crowd turned slightly on their own players during that game so it very much depends on how the Finnish crowd react to their own team, who knows, it could add pressure to them rather than be an advantage," she added.
“What I do know is that an occasion like this warrants a big crowd and Finland deserve that. This tournament has already seen some surprising results and some of the fancied teams such as Denmark are already on their way home. We have to focus and make sure that doesn’t happen to us tomorrow. I think the tournament so far is a testament to the developing strength of teams in Europe and the gap between the best and the rest is narrowing all the time.”
Powell was also quick to praise the Finnish team ahead of the game.
“They are a big, strong side with some very good technical players and maybe having the crowd with them has given them an extra edge. They have surprised a few and played some good football. It would be foolish for us to look at past results and underestimate Finland, and the players know that. Look at our Russia and Italy games and it tells you that past results haven’t counted for much in this tournament. We need to think about this moment and stay in it for as long as we are able to.”
Powell also commented on suggestions that draw has been kind to England, who would not have to face tournaments Germany or Sweden unless they reached the Final.
“I think any team in this half of the draw is glad they won’t have to face the Germans unless both teams reached the Final. They are the benchmark in Women’s football and are rightly favourites, so of course, I’d prefer playing Finland at this stage rather than them. It’s no disrespect to Finland at all, and it would be folly at this stage to think too much about Germany or Sweden again. We are in the quarter final, playing a strong team and only one of us can go through. We both have one chance at this and the prize is a semi-final place.”
Powell also felt that the resiliency of her team would stand them in good stead against the hosts.
“Already in this tournament, we have played for over an hour with ten players and lost narrowly, and then had to comeback from two down to beat Russia. We then went into the game against Sweden needing a result and ended their run of consecutive games without conceding so we know a lot about the character of this squad already.
"We have shown our ability to bounce back and compete against the best in the world and we have to now start doing that on a consistent basis. Our aim is to get the result we need tomorrow night and the focus right now is 110% on that.”
England forward, Eniola Aluko, also spoke ahead of the last-eight clash.
“Of course I’m excited [about playing in the quarter final]. It’s been brilliant to be here and we achieved our first aim of getting out of the group. Now, it’s all to play for. For some of us, this is the biggest game of our careers.”
Aluko recalled the last time England played Finland in a major tournament.
“It was the other way round last time we played the Finns when it mattered. We hosted the Euros in 2005 and played our opening game against Finland in our group. I remember coming on as sub and Karen Carney scoring a last minute winner for a 3-2 victory in front of 29,000 fans. I think I was celebrating as if I had scored it and I still remember the moment well."
Aluko also feels her time in America has made her a better player than the one that left England earlier this year.
“My game has come on so much since being over there," she revealed. "Playing every day has improved all aspects of my game and the one big thing I feel is that playing in front of big crowds in high-pressure games every week has helped my mental strength no end. These types of games don’t phase me as much as they used to and I can look forward to the game with less fear and more confidence.”