Head Coach confident his squad will learn from last three games.
England 1-3 Norway
Women’s U23 International Tournament
Midday, Monday 12 July 2010
University of Warwick
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by Glenn Lavery
The England Women’s U23 Head Coach, Brent Hills, looked back on the International Tournament with a great deal of satisfaction despite watching his charges slip to defeat on three separate occasions.
In light of the hitherto annual Nordic Tournament being cancelled this year Hills decided to invite the U23 sides from USA, Sweden and Norway to Warwick for an FA-hosted mini-tournament and five English players impressed enough to be included in Hope Powell’s senior squad for the World Cup qualifier against Turkey at the end of the month.
After a training game against the World Cup-bound U20s, England opened up the tournament with a 3-0 loss against USA, courtesy of an Ellii Reed strike and a Christen Press brace. This was followed by a 1-0 defeat to Sweden on Friday and the tournament was completed with a 3-1 defeat against Norway on Monday afternoon, Natasha Dowie with England’s solitary reply. Hills, though, remained upbeat despite the results.
“It was a good tournament,” he said. “All the games were competitive. Even though we let in three goals on two occasions, which we are disappointed about, those goals were more down to individual errors than anything else. The game against Norway was reasonably even, although I’m not trying to gloss over the defeat; we had some opportunities, we just didn’t take them.
“The first thing these girls would have learnt is how to prepare for and cope with a very intense programme,” continued Hills. “They have had three games in six days which is a lot of football in such a short space of time, so they have learnt all the strategies they need for recovery. They’ve also had to learn about the highly competitive nature of U23 football. There were a number of players in all four teams who have already represented their senior sides, or will represent them in the very near future, so it was a tournament of a very high calibre.”
In addition to adjusting to the rigours of tournament football, Hills is also confident these last three games will have enhanced his players’ knowledge of different styles of play, a key component of any successful international side.
“Every team played a slightly different system. Two teams played 4-4-2; two played 4-3-3, for want of a better description, but both formations were carried out with slight cultural differences. What you’ve got to do is cope with that and that’s exactly why we play in these tournaments, to get the players used to it. We always try and rotate the squad as well because it is a Development team and it’s all about getting players into the senior squad. And the three nations we faced this last week are regularly amongst the top six sides in the world at senior level.
“We were competitive but we still need to be a lot more consistent if we are going to beat teams like that regularly.”
As he alluded to, Hills has constantly assured his U23s that he will recommend any deserving player to Powell for senior team recognition and that promise certainly came to fruition for Carly Telford, Claire Rafferty, Sophie Bradley, Steph Houghton and Danni Buet who will all travel to Walsall at the end of July when England entertain Turkey in a World Cup qualifier.
“All of them have been very consistent in their own performances and both Hope and me thought they’d be valuable additions to the senior squad,” explained Hills.
“We are very happy,” he concluded. “We were delighted to have three strong teams come over to us and I’m more than pleased with what I’ve learnt about the players and I’m pleased with how the players conducted themselves. What they’ve got to do now is reflect on their performances and come up with strategies that are going to make them more competitive over the next season.”