England face Russia today in what Hope Powell has described as a “must win” game, writes Catherine Etoe.
The two sides met at the same stage in Euro 2009, with both having lost their opening group match. England came back from 2-0 down to beat Russia 3-2 on that occasion, but Powell’s opposite number Sergei Lavrentyev says that game is “history“ and his new look side will not dwell on the past when they come out at Linkoping Arena later today. Regardless of past results, England boss Powell is expecting a difficult afternoon, with both sides needing to take maximum points from the tie if they are to avoid a truly must win final group match. The tournament structure means it might still be possible to draw and get through to the quarter finals but only by winning the final match. As far as Powell is concerned, England have enough quality to get all three points today – her players just need to keep their nerve and have faith in their own abilities. Here is what she had to say on the matter ahead of the tie, along with a few thoughts from Mr Lavrentyev…
England manager Hope Powell on the camp’s analysis of the Spain game:
There were too many unforced errors, some basic things, we talked about doing the simple things well. Lots of positives to come out of the game but it’s the overriding result that matters. The players met and have discussed it and now it’s about trying to get a result against Russia.
They have four players still here from 2009 I think. They were difficult then and I expect them to be difficult again. Obviously, we’ve both lost the opening game and both teams will want to correct that and come away with maximum points. So we are expecting it to be tough and we have to be on our game. I looked at them a couple of times this year already. The [Russia] players I saw play against Spain and Finland earlier in the year are different players, it’s a new coach. Is it going to be the same as 2009? It will be tough I’m sure.
On changing the team:
We continually discuss how players are performing. Sweden certainly were a better team in terms of scoring four more goals than us. But the squad we have is decent. Am I going to sit here and tell you what the team is, I’m not going to do that am I? We will prepare accordingly, we have to think about injuries, we’ve had an injury to Sophie Bradley and have had players that have come in with injuries so it‘s just about taking each game as it comes.
On the game:
I think it is [a must win game] actually. The situation we are in is not ideal, you know, losing the first game. I think we have to win the game realistically to stay in this competition.
I think when you come into a major tournament and the expectation is what it is, everyone is rooting for you at home, 1.2m people watching, that’s a lot of pressure. You go around the players individually and they feel ok, but anxiety is quite draining. I think it’s a case of just reminding players you are good, look at your previous record, you‘ve beaten some of the best teams in the world, it’s just reinforcing some of those messages.
Sophie Bradley has done really well today. We have to manage the loading with Kelly Smith, she has progressed, is she in a position where she will start the game tomorrow? No she isn’t.
On the team’s potential:
If the players go out and play the way they can play, and give it their all I’ll be happy. Too many had an off day against Spain and it becomes infectious. Against Russia if we give 110 per cent we have half a chance of winning. I know we can score goals, the problem is we’ve conceded too many along the way, we’ve got to tighten it up. When our backs are against the wall we know we can score and to have that in your armoury helps. You have to give credit to the opposition. It’s not through want of trying, it’s concentration but a second in football is quite a lot.
Russia coach Sergei Lavrentyev on the relevance of 2009:
This game is history, it’s already four years ago. We will make new history.
On key England players:
The English squad is a very balanced team and it is very difficult to specify one player because they are unique as a whole team. England is a team that has great history and experience.
On the match:
It is important for both teams. Each team needs to win.
On the women’s game in Russia:
It is beginning to be developed. There is a new administration and they are paying special attention to women’s football and that we are the participants in this Euro shows the development.
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