England have been handed a difficult Women’s Euro 2013 group draw with France, to whom they lost on penalties in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, the most difficult of opponents who also include Russia and Spain in the four-nation Group C.
The other two groups at the finals, which are set to be played in seven Swedish cities during July next year, are: Group A – Sweden, Italy, Denmark, Finland; Group B – Germany, Norway, Holland, Iceland.
Speaking from the Svenska Massan Exhibition and Congress Centre in Gothenburg, where the draw was held on Friday evening, England coach Hope Powell – whose team were runners-up at Euro 2009 – said: “It would have been tough whoever we drew because all 12 of the teams who’ll be taking part will be challenging.
“So it is what it is. The most important thing is that we shall be at the finals and we will now do our preparation, do our homework on our group opponents and make sure we are ready to go when the tournament starts in July.”
Powell and her team already have some of their homework in the bank having played France only three weeks ago, drawing 2-2 in Paris and taking real positives from a game against a team that England have failed to beat in 12 outings and 38 years.
Powell said: “When you have a long history of not beating a side a little bit of fear can creep in, but after the game in Paris the girls have got real belief that we’re not far off them and that in fact we can beat them.”
When it comes to meeting Russia there will be encouraging memories for Powell’s players from Euro 2009, where after losing to Italy in their opening group game they went two goals behind to the Russians and were facing elimination before a tremendous fight-back saw them win the game 3-2.
Powell recalled: “That was a crazy game, but I have to say the grit and resilience the girls showed that day carried us through – and we’ll need those same battling qualities in all of our group games in Sweden.”
England have had to battle their way to results in recent years against Spain, though they have managed to come through having knocked the Spaniards out at the qualifying stage of both Euro 2009 and the 2011 World Cup.
A last gasp play-off victory over Scotland earned Spain a place at Sweden 13 and Powell said: “Spain are always tricky opponents, as they proved when they drew with Germany in their qualifying group – that was the first time in a number of years that Germany had failed to win a qualifier.”
With the top two teams in each group, plus the best two third-placed sides, progressing to the quarter-finals, England should be expected to go through if the world rankings are anything to go by – Powell’s team are currently ranked eighth, France fifth, Spain 17th and Russia 20th.
England fans will be hoping to see Powell’s team go all the way to the final, as they did in Finland three years ago, but the National Coach said: “Euro 2009 is a long time gone now and in these next few months we won’t be looking any further than our group matches – getting through that stage has to be our focus.”
England’s group games will take place in Norrkoping and Linkoping, the latter being well known to England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley who plays her club football there.
The finals will kick off with a Group A match between host nation Sweden and their Scandinavian rivals Denmark on July 10, with the final set for July 28.
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