June 19, 2011

Group B Preview: England

England (#10)
Region: UEFA
Coach: Hope Powell
How They Qualified: Won UEFA Group Stage, then defeated Switzerland in playoff.
Prior Cups:
2007: Lost in Quarterfinals
2003: DNQ
1999: DNQ
1995: Lost in Quarterfinals
1991: DNQ
Returnees from 2007 WWC: (13) Brown, A. Scott, Stoney, F. White, Williams, Aluko, K. Smith, Yankey, Asante, J. Scott, Chamberlain, Carney, Unitt.

Roster (Average Age: 26.56)
Karen BardsleyGKSky Blue FC2613/0
Rachel BrownGKEverton3073/0
Siobhan ChamberlainGKBristol Academy2718/0
Sophie BradleyDFLincoln Ladies215/0
Claire RaffertyDFChelsea224/0
Alex ScottDFBoston Breakers2677/12
Casey StoneyDFLincoln Ladies2974/4
Dunia SusiDFBirmingham City2313/0
Rachel UnittDFEverton2989/7
Faye WhiteDFArsenal3399/13
Anite AsanteMFSky Blue FC2649/1
Laura BassettMFBirmingham City2719/0
Stephanie HoughtonMFArsenal2316/1
Jill ScottMFEverton2445/6
Fara WilliamsMFEverton2792/34
Eniola AlukoFWSky Blue FC2455/11
Karen CarneyFWBirmingham City2360/11
Jessica ClarkeFWLincoln Ladies2225/6
Kelly SmithFWBoston Breakers32104/43
Ellen WhiteFWArsenal2214/5
Rachel YankeyFWArsenal31109/14

Recent Matches:
5/17/11SwedenFriendlyW 2-0
4/2/11USAFriendlyW 2-1
3/9/11Korea RepublicCyprusW 2-0
3/7/11CanadaCyprusL 0-2
3/4/11ScotlandCyprusL 0-2
3/2/11ItalyCyprusW 2-0
10/21/10New ZealandPeace CupT 0-0
10/19/10Korea RepublicPeace CupT 0-0
9/16/10SwitzerlandUEFA PlayoffW 3-2
9/12/10SwitzerlandUEFA PlayoffW 2-0
8/21/10AustriaUEFA WC QualifierW 4-0
7/29/10TurkeyUEFA WC QualifierW 3-0
6/19/10SpainUEFA WC QualifierT 2-2
5/20/10MaltaUEFA WC QualifierW 6-0
4/1/10SpainUEFA WC QualifierW 1-0

Hope Powell’s squad may have the best chance ever for England to advance far into the tournament. They have twice reached the quarterfinals, including 2007, when they were beaten by the US 3-0. They are a very experienced, with 13 players returning from that team.

But which team will show up in Germany, the team that just defeated Sweden and the United States in back-to-back friendlies or the team that played two scoreless ties at the Peace Cup and lost to Canada and Scotland at the Cyprus Cup?

One of the players from the 2007 team, Fara Williams, did not get a chance to play in that quarterfinal match. She received two yellow cards and was forced to sit and watch from the side. Williams is a true organizer for the English team, excellent at possession and pin point on free kicks. She will surely be hungry for this World Cup.

The English have a multitude of scoring options. Kelly Smith, a perennial Player of the Year candidate, is their main target. She just recently passed the 100 cap milestone in her career and has scored 43 goals. She is tough and healthy after suffering through some injuries in 2009 and early 2010.

As for who will be her striking partner, that’s anybody’s guess. Eni Aluko looked to be the odds on favorite after the 2009 Euros in which she played brilliantly. However, she has scored just twice in her last 11 appearances for England. Karen Carney usually plays more of a wing and has been injured for the early part of 2011. Rachel Yankey is the experienced veteran and scored against the US in that recent friendly. Then there are young talents like Ellen White and Jess Clarke to be considered.

An American-based goalkeeper, Karen Bardsley, now appears to be their number one keeper. She has started six of their last seven matches, while Rachel Brown had received the lion’s share of the starts before that.

Perhaps the most suspect part of their lineup might be their back line, where Faye White has also been nursing an injury as of late. The English defense is experienced with Alex Scott, Rachel Unitt, and Casey Stoney. While their defense has been better lately, they did give up 14 goals in six games at their last major competition, the 2009 Euros. Goal differential could be very important in this tournament and their defense had better be more defiant than that.

England did appear to get a favorable draw and should be the odds on favorite to advance and possibly win the group. Japan will likely be their stiffest competition and they did not look sharp in a pair of recent matches against the United States. Mexico is relatively inexperienced team and New Zealand, while improving, should not be a problem for England if they play well. However, it must be said that New Zealand played a well-earned tie against England last fall.

If this team plays well and puts it all together, they could make a run deep into this tournament, perhaps all the way to the finals. This might be their best chance yet to place among the top teams in the world.

Note: Some information in this article was obtained from www.fifa.com and www.thefa.com.