Powell's penalty woe
Sunday, 10 July, 2011
Hope Powell speaks after England lose to France on penalties.
By Glenn Lavery
National Coach Hope Powell lauded the character of her team in the aftermath of their World Cup quarter-final defeat to France.
They were just two minutes away from a place in the last four, until Elise Bassaglia’s sublime finish cancelled out Jill Scott’s 59th-minute opener. That took the game to extra-time and eventually penalties, and although Karen Bardsley saved the first spot-kick from Camille Abily, Claire Rafferty and Faye White were off target with their efforts and France edged through to the semi-final.
“We truly believed we had enough in us to go further,” said Powell.
“But this squad of players has shown tremendous character. We didn’t play well in the first half, but [we were] very resilient in the second. Kelly [Smith] could barely run [in extra-time], we were virtually playing with ten players and we managed to hold for penalties. That shows tremendous individual character as well as character as a team. It bodes well.”
Powell acknowledges that despite England leading so late in the game France probably did deserve their equaliser for their first-half dominance and for the pressure they applied after falling behind. But, with tired legs and players carrying visible injuries, the Three Lions battled bravely to take the game to a penalty shoot-out, although that doesn’t make the defeat any easier to take.
“It’s never over until the final whistle,” said Powell. “I have to give credit to France. They pressed and pressed and got the equaliser.
“It was a very, very tough game. Certainly in the first half France were the better team. We just didn’t hit the ground running which was the real unfortunate bit. When we went 1-0 up we were delighted but we always knew France were going to throw more at us [because] they are a very, very good side. We had a game plan but we weren’t implementing it. It didn’t click as well as we wanted it to and in the second half I thought we performed better and that’s how football goes. I’m very proud with how we worked to get ourselves back in the game.
“We thought we had a chance with penalties because we’ve been practising and Karen Bardsley had been saving every single one. I just feel really sorry for the girls and I’m disappointed that we’re going home. We feel desperately unlucky.”
The National Coach also reserved words of praise for Rafferty and White.
“Claire Rafferty is a young kid and she stepped up and you have to admire that. Faye said that if no-one else wanted to do it she’d do it and I’m very, very proud of the fact that she had the guts and the nerve to try and get England into a semi-final. She’s obviously desperately upset but she should feel very proud.
“[Faye] has had a magnificent career. She’s dealt with adversity. Obviously she’s had loads of injuries and she was injured before we got here. She is a magnificent leader and it showed magnificent character that she stepped up to take a penalty. I have nothing but admiration for her. It could have happened to anybody, but that’s penalties. Unfortunately the game has to end some way and it ended badly for us.
“So close, but so far.”