Stoney: "We must be at our best"
Thursday, 27 October, 2011
England stalwart knows Three Lions must bring their 'A' game to Holland.
Watch this match live and free of charge on FATV. Coverage starts at 6.25pm BST on Thursday
Casey Stoney has urged her England team-mates to be at their best on Thursday night as the Three Lions look to claim what could prove to be a crucial Euro qualifying victory over a talented Dutch outfit.
The defender believes Holland, who are enjoying life under their new manager, Roger Reijners, will provide England with a “massive test” in Zwolle, but, equally, insists a solid performance from Hope Powell’s charges should be enough to clinch all three points.
Holland currently sit atop Group 6 having won their opening two matches, against Serbia (6-0) and Croatia (3-0). England are in second place, two points behind, having drawn their first qualifier 2-2 with Serbia before defeating Slovenia 4-0 at Swindon’s County Ground.
“This will be a massive test for us,” predicts Stoney, who is in line to captain her country for the third Euro qualifier in succession.
“Holland have always proved a difficult team to play against. Under their new management they are looking to play a new style of football, more attacking than before, a lot more of a passing game.
“We’ll need to make sure we’re on top of our game if we are to get a result. Individually it will be a test for us because they have got some great, quick players going forward - like Malon Melis - and they like to pass the ball around midfield so we will need to win our own battles in those areas of the field.
“But they have got weaknesses as well and we will be looking to exploit them as much as we can. If we defend well, I think we have got every chance of winning the game.”
One key factor which could ultimately decide the outcome of the game is host club FC Zwolle’s artificial pitch. Although not totally accustomed to playing matches on a 3G surface (Stoney’s club side Lincoln train on a 3G pitch), the 29-year-old is firmly of the opinion that the pitch will not provide England with any problems. They have trained on an artificial surface since their arrival in Holland on Sunday and enjoyed an hour on the match pitch on Wednesday evening.
“It’s a bit different to what we are used to at Lincoln,” she said. “I think it’s a slightly different type of 3G, it seems a bit shorter. The ball moves differently and that’s the main thing we’ve got to deal with, but all of the Lincoln girls in the squad are used to playing on 3G and hopefully that will stand us in good stead.
“Hope asked us what we thought of the pitch as players and we told her that the ball does move a lot quicker, but it’s no quicker than if it was a wet grass pitch so it’s just about being aware of that and going out there and doing a job.
“We will have to be on our toes at the back and make sure we pass to feet all over the pitch. We’ve had three days training on an artificial pitch and we are all used to it now.”
Leaving Holland with a result of any kind is England’s main objective as they still have to play Holland at home next summer, but a win will be sought as much as possible.
“Personally, I think it’s a ‘must win’ game, in terms of taking a bit of pressure off us,” said Stoney.
“Unfortunately, dropping points against Serbia has put Holland in the driving seat in the group. I think it’s a ‘must win’ game, but, ultimately it’s a ‘must not lose’ game because we’ve still got to play them at home. But we know that if we can win the game it puts us in a much better position and that is what we are all aiming for.
“The girls are confident, especially coming off the back of a 4-0 win,” she continued. “We know that dropping two points against Serbia wasn’t good enough because we had enough chances in that game to win it.
“We know what we need to do to get three points and I’m hoping that if everyone’s on their game then we’ll do just that.”
England’s next home qualifier is against Serbia on Wednesday 23 November at Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat Stadium. Tickets are on sale now, priced £5 for adults and £2.50 for concessions, with U7s going free when accompanied by an adult.
Click here to buy online or call the ticket hotline on 01302 762 576.
Squad in full
Karen Bardsley (Linköpings – on loan from Sky Blue), Rachel Brown* (Everton), Siobhan Chamberlain (Bristol Academy)
Sophie Bradley (Nottingham Forest - on loan from Lincoln), Alex Scott (Boston Breakers), Casey Stoney (Lincoln), Dunia Susi (Birmingham City), Rachel Unitt (Everton), Fern Whelan (Everton)
Laura Bassett (Birmingham City), Dan Buet (Chelsea), Steph Houghton (Arsenal), Jade Moore (Birmingham City), Jill Scott (Everton), Fara Williams (Everton)
Eniola Aluko (Sky Blue), Karen Carney (Birmingham City), Jess Clarke (Lincoln), Natasha Dowie (Everton), Ellen White (Arsenal) Rachel Williams (Birmingham City), Rachel Yankey (Arsenal)
* withdrew from the squad through injury