Hope still in the hunt
Sunday, 01 April, 2012
National Coach happy to be in touch in Euro qualifying.
By Glenn Lavery
England’s Euro qualifying win over Croatia pleased National Coach Hope Powell because it kept her side very much in contention to finish atop Group 6.
A brace from Steph Houghton allied to goals from Rachel Williams, Jess Clarke, Ellen White and Rachel Unitt, on the day of her 100th cap, gave England a resounding 6-0 win which closes the gap on Holland at the top of the group to just two points.
“I would have taken six goals at the start [of the game],” said Powell. “It should have been 12, but the most important thing was the result. It was crucial that we got three points today and we did that, so I’m more than satisfied.
“The fact that we scored six and that we created chances and kept going for more; I’ve got to be pleased with that. Credit must go to their goalkeeper [Nicole Vuk], though. She pulled off some good saves.”
It now looks like increasingly like a tussle between England and the Dutch to top the group, with the runners-up likely to be placed in a two-legged play-off.
The two sides met in Zwolle in October and played out a goalless draw on an artificial pitch. They meet again, in England, on Sunday 17 June in a probable winner-takes-all encounter. Hence Powell’s relief to earn three points against Croatia to keep this scenario alive.
“The big game now is in June and [this win] keeps us in contention,” she said.
“We recognise it’s the big game of the group for us. But who knows? They play Slovenia [on Thursday] and you never know what’s going to happen, but we’ll wait and see. We’ll do our preparation and do the best we can.
“Undoubtedly it will be tough but we expect nothing less. We know what’s at stake. We always know what we’ve got to do and that is to win every game [but] it’s not always possible.
“We have to be right on the day.”