Spanish test awaits
Glenn Lavery in Aranda de Duero
Saturday, 19 June, 2010
Hope Powell predicts difficult game in Aranda de Duero.
A victory for the England Women’s team over Spain this evening will seal a World Cup play-off berth for Hope Powell’s side but the Head Coach is “under no illusions” as to how difficult tonight’s encounter will be.
A Katie Chapman goal gave England a 1-0 win over Spain at The Den in April and a repeat result would allow the Three Lions to top Group 5 due to a better head-to-head record. However, Powell is well aware of the threat posed by Spain and she is prepared for another difficult night.
“We’re under no illusions,” she said. “They’re a very good side, we know that from having played them in the Euro[pean qualifying campaign in 2008]. When their name came out of the hat I thought, ‘here we go again, it’s going to be tough’.
“I thought we deserved to win [at The Den], but it was a tight game,” she continued. “Spain showed their attacking capabilities – they created one or two goalscoring chances. At the end you could see how happy and relieved our players were to have won the game.”
Feelings of relief would no doubt be replaced by feelings of elation should England claim all three points in Aranda de Duero and the fact that Spain have to win themselves may well work in England’s favour; a draw would leave Group 5 supremacy out of the Spaniard’s control.
“It might open the game up a bit,” said Powell, of Spain’s need to win. “We’ll have to be ready for that, because generally in the few times we’ve played them, it’s been sit back, try to soak up the pressure and hit us on the break, so it might be from the off they’re going to come at us. We’ve got to absolutely make sure we are ready from the off.
“We know what to expect, we’re just trying to prepare ourselves as best we can. The girls have got to go into the game totally focused, we’ve got to defend diligently and then hopefully attack with flair and creativity to produce goalscoring opportunities.”
In Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankey, Powell has called upon the services of two players with over 90 international caps and that experience could prove vital in such a crucial match. However, throughout this qualification campaign Powell has taken the opportunity to blood a number of younger players, in particular Ellen White, Jess Clarke and Dunia Susi, who have all had major roles to play in previous qualifiers. Defender Claire Rafferty made her senior bow against Austria in March and started against Malta last month. Sophie Bradley is also waiting in the wings, ready to make her England debut and with the recent successes of the England Women’s U19 team Powell believes the senior side is beginning to reap the benefits of improved youth development in the women’s game.
“It’s important because we need that conveyor belt of talent,” she admitted. “The pleasing thing is, it looks like that’s happening.
“From the U19s to the seniors is a massive jump. Make no mistake; it is a massive gulf, but, the fact they are getting that experience in European [U19] Championships and [U20] World Cups only helps. They will get that experience of playing top-level games and then the cream floats. That’s where Sophie [Bradley] came from, that’s where Raff [Claire Rafferty] came from. It’s good, it just needs to keep happening and it goes right back to the work that’s been done in the Centres [of Excellence]. It only helps us at the top end.”