Hope: "It's a must win game"
By Glenn Lavery
Friday, 30 March, 2012
National Coach knows importance of Euro qualifier in Croatia.
Hope Powell is fully aware of the importance of Saturday’s Euro 2013 qualifier against Croatia.
Keen to avoid a two-legged play-off to get to the Finals in Sweden next year, the National Coach has her sights on top spot in Group 6.
Her side sit five points behind current group leaders Holland, although England do have a game in hand and they also host the Dutch in June.
“If we don’t win on Saturday we are almost as good as handing top spot to the Dutch and I have told that to the players,” said Powell. “It’s a must win game, we know that.
“But, as usual, I can’t fault the players’ application this week. Unfortunately we’ve had a few injuries but it’s a good opportunity to see how the new players perform. Overall the attitude has been very good.”
The injuries to which Powell refers have robbed her of the services of experienced trio Kelly Smith, Sue Smith and Casey Stoney, while defenders Sophie Bradley and Fern Whelan and Everton forward Natasha Dowie will also sit this game out.
“It’s just bad luck,” said Powell of the injury situation. “It’s challenging, but we’ve got a better depth of a squad than we have had in previous years.
“It’s a shame that we haven’t got the broader squad to choose from because it just gives you a different dimension, more depth, more strength. But that’s why you have a squad of players.
“It won’t be easy, none of these games ever are. The fact that we are expected to win puts a bit more pressure on us, but it’s something we’ll have to cope with.”
And what is Powell expecting to see from Croatia?
“We’ve had them looked at a few times and they’ve got some decent players,” she said. “They don’t stop running, they like to pick the ball up and run at players and they break with pace. We need to be ready for that and if their attacks do break down it’s about us breaking quickly and trying to capitalise.
“If we play how we know we can, we shouldn’t have a problem. Sometimes you prepare all you can, set out your expectations and things don’t quite work out as planned, but that’s football.
“We are good enough to beat them, it’s just about going out there and proving it.”