Powell lauds second-half show
Wednesday, 18 May, 2011
National Coach pleased with second 45 against Sweden.
Hope Powell praised her side’s second-half performance against Sweden as England recovered from a nervy opening 45 minutes to beat the Scandinavians 2-0 at Kassam Stadium, providing a timely boost ahead of next month’s World Cup Finals.
Sweden hit the post and had most of the ball in the first-half but England re-grouped at half-time, Powell made four changes and the Three Lions produced a much better performance after the break. Jill Scott headed the opening goal just a minute after the restart and substitute Karen Carney sealed the win from the penalty spot with 20 minutes left.
“I think we went into the game feeling very edgy,” revealed Powell. “Sweden were very unlucky not to have scored a goal or two by half-time. And from our own point of view, half-time came at just the right time so we could have a discussion and put things right.
“The players recognised there was no tempo, that they were a bit lacklustre and that they had a few nerves. So we had a discussion, made the changes and I just let them re-focus and made them realise they are a team that can play football. They came out in the second half and started again and produced a much better half of football.”
So, what was the key to the improvement?
“We tightened up in the second half and protected the backline a bit more,” said Powell. “Sweden then reverted to the long ball because they have got some big girls up top. We tidied up the link between the backline and the midfield and made sure we won the second balls because we’ve got players who can break at pace. That was the plan, we implemented it and we got a result.
“That first goal really settled us,” she continued. “It opened us up a little bit and we played with a lot more freedom. We tried the things we know we are good at; the through balls, players running in between. Overall I was really pleased with the second 45 [minutes].”
This was England’s last match before they fly to Germany to compete in the World Cup and it comes just over a month after they defeated USA 2-1 at Leyton Orient. Both Sweden and the Americans are in the top five of the FIFA rankings and the National Coach believes these two results will give her squad a great deal of confidence.
“You want to go into a major tournament on a high, full of confidence, knowing you are capable of beating leading nations in the game and USA and Sweden are certainly that.
“The most important thing, though, is that we have to get results when it matters, when points are at stake,” she warned. “At a World Cup you have to perform and you have to win. We have to get out of the group and it will be tough. But the last two games definitely give us some confidence.”
Powell named a 26-player squad for the Sweden game which she has to whittle down to a World Cup squad of 21 by Friday 10 June. She admits to knowing the identity of the majority of her squad and said the Sweden game had helped her settle a few doubts.
“I know the players. I know their strengths and weaknesses. [Tuesday night’s win] posed a few questions but more importantly it just firmed things up. I will have the 21 players absolutely firmed up on 10 June.”
England get their World Cup campaign underway against Mexico in Wolfsburg on Monday 27 June. Their other Group B opponents are New Zealand and Japan.