Powell plans for future
The contrast between the leaders in women's football and the also rans could not be more stark: tomorrow night, while Norway and United States do battle in front of 100,000 people for Olympic gold, England face Finland in a friendly at Leyton Orient's Brisbane Road.
The irony is not lost on England coach Hope Powell, who also knows that a win against Ukraine in the forthcoming European Championship play-offs will take the team closer to permanent membership of the elite in the women's game.
"It's a long way off for us,'' said Powell, whose side were beaten 9-0 by the Norwegians last season. "But we are learning and getting better all the time."
Qualifying for next year's finals would be a great achievement considering the majority of the Powell's squad are amateur and hold down regular jobs. Only Katie Chapman and Rachel Yankey are full-time professionals, both playing for Fulham Ladies, the only professional club in England, but one not yet in the Premier League.
Powell admits the match against Finland is simply a game for the team to finalise their game-plan for the play-offs and it is the manner of the performance and not the result against Finland that really counts. Everything has been geared towards October and November and beating Ukraine, right down to the longer than usual five-day training camp at the Five Lakes Golf and Country Club in rural Essex.
"The hotel, the training, beating the Ukraine that is what this is all about," said the former England international turned national coach. "What we are looking to do is get the game-plan right, get the squad involved so they know their responsibilities. The performance is the important thing.
"We have to just prepare the best way we can and give ourselves the opportunity to get the job done."
Powell, who will field a side whose average age is just 24, has been deprived of a number of players for the friendly that sees Everton's Mo Marley retain the captain's armband. Claire Utley chipped a bone in her foot during a Premier League Cup game for her club Doncaster Belles and will miss out, as do two United States-based players, goalkeeper Rachel Brown and forward Danielle Murphy, who have not been released by their universities.