Hope Powell looks forward to the massive match with France on Sunday at Ewood Park.
FIFA 2007 Women's World Cup qualifier
England v France
Sunday 26 March 2006
Blackburn Rovers FC, 7.05pm.
England Head Coach Hope Powell has shared her thoughts with TheFA.com ahead of this weekend’s Women’s World Cup qualifier against France.
"The countdown continues to Sunday’s game at Ewood Park and I was happy that the eleven players involved in the FA Women’s Cup semi finals last weekend at Bishop’s Stortford and Guiseley came through unscathed.
"The five players from Arsenal and Charlton Athletic were carrying some battle-scars when they joined up at the team hotel on Monday after their semi-final went to extra-time, but with this game being on Sunday, as opposed to a Thursday, we have plenty of time to let them recover and then gear them up for this hugely important game.
"Much has been said and written about the rivalry between Arsenal and Charlton, but the players are also good friends.
"As soon as they join up on international duty, all bragging rights get put to one side, with the sole focus for this week being on trying to gain another three points to take us a step closer to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1995.
"Our last meeting against France was in the qualifying play-off final for the 2003 World Cup. The tie was played over two legs, both of which France won 1-0 to deny us a place at the finals in America.
"In the three years or so since those two matches I feel that we’ve made good progress as a team, not only in the technical quality of our play, our fitness levels and game understanding, but also in terms of the squad’s versatility and strength in depth.
"When we last played France we were missing three key players and that really cost us, but although we’ve continued to have injury problems we are far better equipped to cope with them now than we were back then.
"In terms of versatility we have players who can comfortably operate in two, some of them in three, different positions in the side and as for strength in depth, we have good cover in every single position.
"On Sunday we are without our captain, Faye White, who is suspended for the match after collecting two yellow cards in the previous three qualifiers and who co-incidentally also missed that last game against France in St Etienne.
"It’s obviously a blow to have an important player like Faye missing, but we have performed well in her absence during our three recent friendlies and I’ll be looking for the team to continue their good form on Sunday evening."