Hope Powell is keen for her charges to start their Euro 2005 preparations with a win against Holland on Saturday.
England coach Hope Powell will demand that her players "stand up and be counted" as they continue their build-up to next year’s Uefa Women’s European Championships finals with two friendly matches in five days against Holland.
Both games are to be played in the Netherlands, at the Reiger Boys Stadium in Heerhugowaard on Saturday and at Tuitjenhoorn bij FC next Wednesday.
And with Euro 2005 set to be played in England next June, Powell insists that her players must show a vast improvement on the display they produced when losing 2-1 at home to Russia in their first international of the new campaign last month.
That followed some encouraging performances and results last season, particularly the impressive 2-0 victory over a Denmark team standing five places higher than England in FIFA’s world rankings.
Speaking at the England training camp in Egmond aan Zee ahead of the two meetings with Holland, the national coach said: "If we are going to do well at Euro 2005 we will have to perform much better than we did against Russia.
"We have to get back to the sort of form we showed against Denmark and in the first half of our away game against Russia last season. I wasn’t happy with what we got against the Russians at Bristol in August and the players realised it.
"I want players who will stand up and be counted and that performance wasn’t acceptable - and I’ll definitely be looking for some questions to be answered over the next few days."
In the light of those comments Powell may well have been contemplating team changes, but three at least will be forced on the coach due to Arsenal players being in UEFA Women's Cup action with their club team and Charlton Athletic striker Carmaine Walker having pulled out of the squad through injury.
Birmingham City’s Amanda Barr is set to replace Walker, while at the back Everton’s Lindsay Johnson should make her senior international debut due to the absence of Arsenal defenders.
Laura Bassett, the Birmingham City captain, is another player likely to be handed a starting role in place of a missing Gunner, and with Bassett’s club colleague Rachel Yankey facing a fitness test on a knee injury Leeds United winger Sue Smith could be in line to win her 50th cap.
On the last occasion England were in the Netherlands, in March 2002, they won 4-1 in a World Cup qualifier.
The two fixtures coming up in the next few days have no competitive consequence - but in terms of preparation for the biggest women’s football tournament ever to be held in the UK, they may prove vital.
Holland, who sit one place below England at fifteenth in the world rankings, have failed to qualify for Euro 2005 but will, reckons Powell, "give us the sort of test we need in our build-up to the Championships.
"They’re a decent team with a busy style of playing," noted the England coach. "They move the ball around quickly and I think we’ll have two good games against them."
Probable England line-up (4-3-3): Hall (Fulham); Bassett (Birmingham City), Stoney (Charlton Athletic), Johnson (Everton), Unitt (Everton); Exley (Doncaster Rovers Belles), Chapman (Charlton), Williams (Everton); Handley (Everton), Barr (Birmingham City), Smith (Leeds United).