England will go three points clear at the top of their group if they beat Holland on Thursday.
Holland v England
FIFA Women's World Cup Qualifier
17 November 2005
England will go three points clear at the top of their 2007 Women’s World Cup qualifying group if they beat Holland on Thursday to maintain a 100 per cent record.
In what will be the five-nation group’s final encounter for four months, victory would also give Hope Powell’s team a big psychological advantage going into the winter break.
They will step into their game at FC Zwolle as group leaders, but only on goal difference from an improving Holland team who also have maximum points.
National Coach Powell saw the Dutch spring a major surprise by beating group favourites France, who at number five in the world are ranked 13 places higher than Holland.
"Holland had to battle all the way against France and they rode their luck at times," said Powell, "but in the end they deserved the three points.
"They were aggressive, resilient and very hard to break down - France perhaps weren’t prepared for all that, but Holland were impressive.
"A result like that will obviously have boosted their confidence and on Thursday they’ll come at us with everything.
"It will be a very hard game, but then they always give us a tough time irrespective of the result. We are under no illusions about the task facing us - but we’ll be prepared."
England are unbeaten against Holland under Powell and have won each of the last three meetings, including a 4-1 victory in the 2003 World Cup qualifying campaign.
One of the scorers in that match, Katie Chapman, has had to withdraw from the England squad for Thursday’s game as have Alex Scott and Emily Westwood.
On the plus side for Powell, captain Faye White and striker Amanda Barr are back after missing the game in Hungary.
But the National Coach admits that losing Charlton Athletic’s Chapman, whose combative approach will be needed on Thursday, is a blow.
"Katie is a massive loss for us," said Powell. "She’s one of our most consistent performers and she’s been the unsung hero on a number of occasions.
"But we’ve now got a lot of depth in the squad and in any case, we can’t harp on about the players who are missing - it’s about playing the game with the squad we’ve got."
Kelly McDougall, Anita Asante and Laura Bassett have been brought in by Powell to replace the three players who have dropped out.
Despite the squad having been weakened England will probably head into Thursday evening’s match as favourites.
Big wins against Austria and Hungary have given them a huge goal-difference advantage over Holland and France, who are also level on points but have played a game more.
And with France - ranked nine places higher than England - the next opponents for Powell’s team, victory in Zwolle could prove vital.
"Going into this break from group games with three wins out of three would be great," said Powell, "but we are facing a very difficult 90 minutes to achieve that.
"We want to go out there and play as well as we possibly can, but the result is the most important thing - and if we can come home with three points I’ll be happy."