Hope Powell looks back on the women's game in 2009.
With 2009 rapidly drawing to a close the England Women’s Head Coach, Hope Powell, took time to reflect on the progress that has been made in the women’s game in the past 12 months.
When the year began there was every reason for optimism and by September this confidence was certainly justified; the senior team had reached the Final of the European Championship for the first time in 25 years while Mo Marley’s U19 side went one better in July when they claimed the European U19 title in Belarus, England’s first-ever trophy in women’s football.
These achievements brought to fruition years of steady progress as the senior side were competing in their third successive major tournament and the U19s were contesting a second European Final in four years.
“It’s been our most successful year ever,” Powell concluded.
“Obviously the U19s kicked it off with their European Championship victory which was fantastic. They’ve qualified for next year’s U20 World Cup which will give them another platform to display their talent and test themselves against the very best in the world, so their progress has been particularly pleasing.
“And their success really inspired the seniors to do well,” she continued. “It was a tough test getting to those Finals, especially when we were 2-0 down to Spain in the final qualifier, but we came back at them and got the point we needed.”
The Euro preparations began in February when Powell took her side to Larnaca for the annual Cyprus Cup and after two warm-up matches against Finland, England produced a comfortable 6-0 dismissal of South Africa in the opening game. A 2-2 draw with France and a 3-0 defeat of Scotland saw England through to the Final where they were 3-1 victors over Canada.
Three friendly matches – against Norway, Iceland and Denmark – were next on the agenda before England flew to Finland for the European Championship and it was far from a perfect start as the Three Lions lost 2-1 to Italy and also lost Casey Stoney to a first-half red card.
“In the Euros no back four was the same,” Powell explained. “We had a player sent off in the opening game but managing to get to the Final for the first time since 1984 just shows how far we’ve come. It was a great achievement for everyone involved, the staff and the players.”
England lost the Final 6-2 to current World Champions, Germany, but Powell can point to “a very proud year”.
“It’s been a great year for women’s football,” she said. “It’s really difficult looking back on it because I’m pleased but not satisfied. I was bitterly disappointed that we didn’t win the Euros, as were the players. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it to be honest, unless, of course, we win a major tournament.
“Experience counted for a lot. Germany are used to playing in Finals, they are used to playing six games and we weren’t. All of those things had a bearing.”
As 2010 approaches, England sit in second place in their World Cup qualifying group, six points behind leaders, Spain, but with two games in hand. They have scored eleven goals without reply in their opening two victories even though Powell admits her side have been nowhere near their best. Nevertheless, with a place at the 2011 World Cup up for grabs, the Head Coach has every reason to look forward to another successful 12 months.
“We’ve all learnt from the Euros,” Powell said. “When we looked back on that Final as a group, the players realised how small the margins are between silver and gold. The next 12 months is going to be a real challenge, but we have to look to the future.
“We experienced coming from behind in a game so many times in the Euros that we now believe we can come from behind in any game. It’s obviously not a sensible tactic, but when you have had those experiences it helps your game.
“I believe we can have continued success. First and foremost we have to keep qualifying for major tournaments and then hopefully go on to win one.
“There’s lots still to be done, but I’d love to win something with England.”
Powell will take 31 players to La Manga in January for a training camp in preparation for the World Cup Qualifier against Austria on 25 March.