England take on Austria tonight in their first 2007 Women's World Cup qualifier.
Austria v England
World Cup Qualifier
7.30pm, Thursday 1 September 2005
England will be aiming to make a flying start to their 2007 Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign with a victory over Austria in their first group match at Amstetten tonight.
After their impressive performances at the Women’s Euro 2005, where they narrowly failed to reach the semi-finals, Hope Powell’s team will be favourites to beat a team that sit 33 places below them at 47th in FIFA’s world rankings.
But they will have to do so without one of their Euro stars, Arsenal winger Rachel Yankey, who has withdrawn from the 20-player squad through injury.
And National Coach Powell, who has called up Norway-based striker Kristy Moore as Yankey’s replacement, warns that her team must not take the Austrians lightly on what will be the first occasion the two nations have met in a women’s international.
Austria are a bit of an unknown quantity to us,” said Powell, “but we know they are a tough, physically strong team who must not be underestimated.
“They’ve got four or five Bayern Munich players in their side so they’ll also have some quality, and there’s no way we can go into a game like this thinking it’s a foregone conclusion.”
England’s qualifying group also includes Hungary, Holland and France, with the French – who beat England in the 2003 World Cup qualifying play-off final – favourites to come out on top.
But as only the group winners will progress into the 2007 finals, to be staged in China, Powell and her players know that there will be no play-off opportunity this time round.
And that, says the Coach, makes it even more vital that England give themselves the best possible start in Amstetten.
“It’s a tough group,” she said, “but we have to go into these games aiming to win every one of them.
“The players know what’s expected of them and I’ll be looking to them to carry forward the sort of commitment and focus they displayed at the Euro finals.
“It’s a pity that Rachel Yankey’s had to drop out of the squad, but this is an 18 month campaign and injuries are bound to happen and we just have to accept that.
“It means that someone else will come in and hopefully take their chance, because competition for places is important to keep everyone on their toes right through those 18 months.”
While Powell will be urging her team to make a winning start, the players themselves are confident not only of success in Austria but also of reaching the World Cup finals for the first time since 1995.
Captain Faye White said: “Everybody is raring to go and the aim is to keep the momentum going from Euro 2005.
“We won’t be underestimating Austria, but feel we are good enough to beat them – and we have the talent and ability in the side to go all the way to the finals.”
Rachel BROWN Everton
Siobhan CHAMBERLAIN Bristol Academy
Lindsay JOHNSON Everton
Mary PHILLIP Arsenal
Alex SCOTT Arsenal
Casey STONEY Charlton Athletic
Rachel UNITT Everton
Faye WHITE Arsenal
Katie CHAPMAN Charlton Athletic
Vicky EXLEY Doncaster Rovers Belles
Kelly McDOUGALL Everton
Kelly SMITH Arsenal
Emily WESTWOOD Everton
Fara WILLIAMS Everton
Amanda BARR Charlton Athletic
Karen CARNEY Birmingham City
Jody HANDLEY Everton
Josanne POTTER Charlton Athletic
Sue SMITH Leeds United
Kristy MOORE Fløya