Rachel Brown will be fully prepared for Iceland tonight, having played for two years on the island.
England v Iceland
7.45pm, Thursday 09 March 2006
Norwich City FC
Having played two seasons of club football in Iceland, Everton goalkeeper Rachel Brown needs no introduction to this evening’s visitors as England complete their build-up to March 26’s crucial World Cup qualifier against France.
The 25 year-old keeper will in particular be keeping a watchful eye on a couple of her former ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar colleagues, strikers Andrea Olga Faerseth and Margaret Lara Vidarsdottir – both of whom will be aiming to put the ball in Brown’s net!
"They’re outstanding strikers, in fact among the best I’ve seen," said Brown. "They’re technically good, they hold the ball up well and make good runs off the ball. They’re a formidable strike pair and they’ll be a big danger."
Brown is one of five Everton players who at various times have played for ÍBV over the last few years, and the keeper is a big fan of the club’s location in the Westmann Islands, just south of the main body of Iceland.
"It’s a volcanic island and a very peaceful place to be," said Brown.
"It’s good for mind therapy, but the football’s good too. I’d say that Iceland’s best three club teams – ÍBV, Valur and KR – could compete in our Women’s Premier League.
"The rest aren’t up to the same standard, but at international level they’ve got some very good players and they’ve been showing that with their World Cup qualifying results. They’ll be an ideal test for us before our game against France."
As the World Cup qualification programme went into its winter recess Iceland sat level on points with the Czech Republic and Sweden at the top of Group 2, their best result to date being an impressive 2-2 away draw with group favourites Sweden.
England last month had not one but two draws with Sweden in hard-fought friendly internationals in Cyprus. After eight successive defeats by the world’s fifth-ranked nation, those results marked positive progress for Hope Powell’s team.
And Brown reckons that the confidence gained from the performances in those games, especially as they followed three successive World Cup qualifying victories, has set the team up nicely for the crunch match against the French.
She said: "We’ve put ourselves into a great position in our World Cup group and the resolve, the fight and the team spirit we showed in the games against Sweden proved we can now compete with the best in the world.
"We’re really fired up for the France game and if we can win that one it will make us very strong contenders for World Cup qualification. We want to go into that game on the back of a good result, so beating Iceland would be a tremendous boost.
"It’s going to be difficult because they’re a tough, battling team who will give us a hard time. But if we can produce a good performance and get the result we want against my old friends and team-mates, I’ll be delighted."