England performed strongly but were unable to get on the scoresheet against Sweden in Cyprus.
England 0-0 Sweden
GSZ Stadium, Larnaca
Tuesday 07 February 2006
England's first of two friendly games with Sweden in Cyprus was a competitive affair, and although no goals were scored there was plenty of positives that will help Hope Powell in the run up to the vital encounter with France.
England had much better of the first half that was filled with attacking football from both sides. England's best chance came on 40 minutes after great work from Eniola Aluko.
A burst of pace took her behind Frida Ostberg the swedish right back and a floated cross found Karen Carney arriving at the back post.
Unfortunately the young Birmingham City player got under the ball and headed over, when she should have hit the target.
England started the game with no hangover from their last World Cup Qualifier in November and began the brighter.
Aluko had the first chance in the second minute but scuffed her shot after getting behind the Swedish backline featuring two debutants.
On 16 minutes, England came within inches of taking the lead after more good work involving England two teenage forwards. This time it was Karen Carney supplying the cross from the left flank.
Arriving at the back post was Casey Stoney who rose highest but her header rebounded to safety off the far post with Lindhal rooted to the ground. This seemed to wake the Swedes from their sluggish start.
On 23 minutes Victoria Svensson got in behind Mary Phillip and her shot from 10 yards was well saved by Rachel Brown and six minutes later, Svensson brought a last-ditch block from Katie Chapman - playing as a centre-back - after Linda Fagerstrom was allowed too much time to cross from the right.
But at half-time Hope Powell was the happier of the two coaches as her young side showed some encouraging signs, with once more just a lack of a killer instinct in front of goal meaning that the Three Lions went into the break on level terms.
The end to end nature of the first period did not continue after the interval and Sweden exerted their grip on proceedings. Lotta Schelin was involved in both key moments but despite her growing influence, the Swedes failed to break the deadlock.
In the 69th minute, a tantalising right wing cross from sub Johanna Almgren found the tall winger eight yards out, but under pressure from Casey Stoney, she blazed over.
Two minutes earlier a sublime bit of skill saw Schelin nutmeg Stoney on the byline, and with English hearts in mouths, her cutback for Victoria Svensson saw the experienced striker slice her shot from 12 yards.
As both sides made a number of substitutions in the final half an hour, Jody Handley just failed to get on the end of Jo Potter's free kick, but with Sweden still pressing, England held firm to emerge with a more than creditable 0-0 draw, under the watchful eye of France Head Coach Elisabeth Loisel.
It is now just seven weeks until England take on Les Bleus at Ewood Park in their next World Cup qualifier, and Hope Powell will no doubt be hoping that England can develop a ruthless streak in front of goal to complement the total commitment displayed by her side tonight in Larnaca.
England: Rachel Brown (Everton), Mary Phillip (Arsenal), Casey Stoney (Charlton Athletic), Rachel Unitt (Everton), Anita Asante (Arsenal) (Jo Potter (Charlton Athletic) 86mins), Katie Chapman (Charlton Athletic), Vicky Exley (Doncaster Rovers Belles), Fara Williams (Everton) Eniola Aluko (Charlton Athletic) (Amanda Barr (Charlton Athletic) 74mins), Karen Carney (Birmingham City) (Jody Handley (Everton) 66mins), Rachel Yankey (Arsenal) (Sue Smith (Leeds United) 66mins)
Subs not used: Siobhan Chamberlain (Bristol Academy) Laura Bassett (Birmingham City), Lindsay Johnson (Everton), Kelly Smith (Arsenal), Katie Holtham (Bristol Academy)
Sweden: Hedwig Lindahl, Frida Ostberg, Sara Larsson, Stina Segerstrom, Caroline Nafver, Linda Fagerstrom, Caroline Seger, Therese Sjogran, Lotta Schelin, Therese Lundin, Victoria Svensson (captain),