Author Topic: Powell hopes for more  (Read 771 times)

Offline David

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Powell hopes for more
« on: January 10, 2008, 07:04:22 PM »
This summer Hope Powell will have completed a decade as England's first full-time women's national coach, and in those years few countries have taken such a big stride forward. Powell's first competitive game in charge was a FIFA Women's World Cup qualifier in Norway where a 2-0 defeat confirmed England as bottom of their pool; now it would be something of a shock if they did not top UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ qualifying Group 1.

World Cup run
Powell's job at the Football Association also encompasses youth development and the fruits of her work were clear from the emerging team that reached the World Cup in China last year, the first time England had qualified since Powell herself played in the 1995 edition. Only the United States stopped their run in the quarter-finals, but not before a superb 0-0 group-stage draw with eventual winners Germany. Since then they have continued their perfect start to EURO qualification with victories over Belarus and Spain, and Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic are next up in March.

'Fantastic year'
But it was China that was the highlight of 2007, and perhaps of Powell's reign. "It seems such a long time ago now – coming back and going into EURO qualifiers was a bit difficult for everyone involved," she told "It was a fantastic year for us in England. Firstly having qualified unexpectedly out of the group we were in, and then doing relatively well. And raising the profile of the game in England, which was phenomenal for us."

'Nothing to fear'
Especially impressive was ending Germany's sequence of 45 consecutive wins in World Cup and UEFA European Women's Championship matches. They were also level at half-time in their quarter-final before what Powell describes as "13 minutes of absolute madness" cost them three goals against the US. Powell said: "We truly believed after the performance against Germany – who are the best team in the world, and everybody tries to emulate them – that we had nothing to fear against the USA. Even when we were three goals down, we were still putting them on the back foot at times, which was really encouraging. We learned how crucial the margin is between success and failure, it's very minimal. We've learned from that and we look forward in the future to hopefully being in many more final rounds, because the whole experience was fantastic for us."

Building on success
Now the onus is on Powell and company to build on their success, with the coach encouraged by the response back home to their exploits in China. "I think it has been developing for a while," she said. "I think the added bonus was that we got to a World Cup and the exposure we got from TV was fantastic. It's been years of hard work – learning from other associations and taking the best of what suits our game and driving forward."

German benchmark
The benchmark remains Germany, who not only took the World Cup last year but beat England in the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final. Such strength at youth level is the key to Germany's triumphs, Powell believes. "I think Germany have depth in all their squads," she said. "Their talent comes through, especially at U19 level – our U19s played them in the final in Iceland and were really unfortunate – and their youth systems are good. At senior level, probably the difference is that they have depth, they are able to bring somebody on who is equal to the player they take off. I think it's about everyone working hard. They have set the benchmark and it's for everyone else to do their best to work towards that."

EURO aim
England's next chance to challenge Germany for a senior title will be at UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™, provided they keep up their qualifying form. A narrow 1-0 victory against Spain has given Powell's side a crucial cushion over one of their main rivals, and the result was a relief to the manager. "It hasn't been easy coming back from the World Cup," she said. "Playing Spain was a difficult challenge. Credit to Spain as we were fortunate to get the three points. I think we're looking forward to the break and starting again in the new year. Our objective is to qualify for Finland."