England will be aiming for a fourth successive home victory on Thursday when they face Nigeria at the Madejski.
England will be aiming for a fourth successive home victory as they continue their build-up to next year’s European Championships finals with a friendly international against Nigeria at Reading’s Madejski Stadium tonight.
England v Nigeria, 7.30pm
Sky Sports 1
Hope Powell’s team have already beaten Australia, Scotland and, most impressively, Denmark during a season in which their only defeat to date was away to world champions Germany.
In their only other match they drew away to Russia, who like Germany, Australia and Nigeria took part in last September’s World Cup finals in America.
So as National Coach Powell looked ahead to tonight’s meeting with the Super Falcons she was understandably pleased with the progress her team has been making towards Euro 2005, which is being staged in England.
"Performances are more important than results in our preparations for Euro 2005," pointed out Powell, "but obviously the confidence in the side has grown through our recent results against some very good opposition.
"We can’t get carried away though, there’s still lots of work to do and we have to try to move forward with every game. We’ve done well so far this season, but now we have to continue progressing as a team in our build-up to the Euros."
Powell has deliberately chosen to play against top quality sides as she hones her squad for what will be the biggest ever women’s football tournament held in this country.
Nigeria will present another difficult test on the back of not only their World Cup appearance but also their recent qualification for this year’s Olympic Games.
Only a fortnight ago they beat South Africa - who they had also overcome to clinch the gold medal at last October’s All-Africa Games - in the qualifying final for the Olympics.
The Super Falcons have been involved in every Women’s World Cup finals to date and have also taken part in the two previous Olympics at which women’s football has been played.
They beat England 1-0 on the last occasion the nations met, at Norwich in July 2002, and Powell said: "They gave us a tough test last time we played them and it will be every bit as tough this time.
"I watched all of their games at last year’s World Cup and they impressed me - they’re strong, athletic and very fit so our girls are in for a hard time on Thursday.
"But these are the sort of games we need if we are going to get battle-hardened for Euro 2005. We’ll be up against the best teams in Europe and we have to be as well prepared as we possibly can be for the tournament."
Powell has been forced to make one change from her originally announced squad, calling up Bristol Rovers goalkeeper Toni-Ann Wayne following the withdrawal of Charlton Athletic’s Pauline Cope.
The Addicks keeper, England’s most-capped current international, has announced her retirement from international football.
That has left Leeds United’s 25 year-old winger Sue Smith, capped 46 times, as the most experienced international in Powell’s latest squad.
The only uncapped player involved is Arsenal’s 19 year-old winger Jo Potter, making her first appearance in an England squad which features several up and coming youngsters in a line-up whose average age is only 23.
Powell has increasingly been turning to youth as she looks to the long-term future of an England team whose sights are now firmly fixed on Euro 2005.
The latest instalment of their build-up to the tournament is set to be televised live by Sky Sports with the game kicking off at 7.30 pm.