England Ladies make impressive start to World Cup qualifiers

October 29, 2013 in Uncategorized by Lizzi Hollis

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With the England Men’s team safely qualified for the World Cup in Brazil next summer, it time for us to turn our attention to England’s ladies and the fantastic start they have made to their own World Cup 2015 qualifying campaign. So far they have three wins; against Turkey, Belarus and close rivals Wales and currently sit top of the group with the maximum nine points, six points clear of Wales and Belarus.

To see the ladies pick themselves up after a poor showing at the European Championship in the summer and the subsequent firing of long-standing coach Hope Powell is credit to the strength and determination of these women. I have been concerned that they might have damaged the positive reputation that women’s football has been gaining in recent years when they crashed out of the European Championships in the group stages, but their return on the international stage has silenced many of my fears.

The opening game of the qualifiers was against Belarus and was pretty much finished off before half time thanks to a hattrick from Karen Carney and a neatly slotted goal by Ellen White, set up by the magnificent Jordan Nobbs . The second half was dominated by England and a number of near misses which meant the period’s goal tally totalled only two. However, the goals scored by Liverpool’s  Natasha Dowie and Chelsea forward Eni Aluko took the final score to 6-0 and ensured that the upset in Sweden in the summer was forgotten.

The second game of England’s qualifying campaign came just days later and was another home game, this time against Turkey. Still high from the brilliant win earlier in the week England ladies came onto the field in a burst of enthusiasm and determination, which was converted early on - Toni Duggan scored twice in the opening two minutes. Turkey were in for a thumping. Two goals from Ellen White, one from Aluko and a third from Duggan made the score a staggering 6-0 at half time. Like the Belarus game, the 2nd half was a quieter affair, with only 2 goals being scored in comparison to the first half 6, netted again by Aluko and Dowie. 8-0 was the final score and ensured Turkey, who are ranked 65th in the world, were given a thrashing.

The latest in England’s run of qualifying games came against rivals Wales, the highest ranked team England would face so far, sitting at 37th in the FIFA world rankings. The performance that the ladies put on was not only a winning one but proved that they can play football that is not just quantity of goals but quality too. Although the goal hoard was not as high as the previous game the two goals scored by Nobbs and Duggan were pure class. Nobbs’ goal was set up by Karen Carney after Aluko swiftly crossed the ball in from the right; a clinical and technical volley from Nobbs ensured that the Wales ‘keeper had no chance of saving the shot. Duggan’s low strike was a show of her ability as she controlled the ball in from Fara Williams and swung around a low volley to score the winner. England set a record at Milwall on Saturday with three consecutive wins.

However, there are still tests to come for this England team. Even in these early stages I can almost guarantee the ladies will qualify for Canada in 2015 and predict they will top the table, but whether they can do that with straight wins is not a given. Wales put up a good fight against this team on Saturday and may fare better in the home legs. Also in group six is 23rd ranked Ukraine – although ranked lower than England they are a good side, who will want to prove their quality after failing to qualify for the European Championship and never reaching a World Cup in their 20-year history. I believe that they, along with Wales, are the biggest threat to an undefeated qualifiers for England.

The next game will be against Turkey in Adana on Thursday and is England’s first away match of the campaign. The game could also signal a farewell to caretaker manager Brent Hills, who is hopeful of retaining the job permanently. I like to think a fourth consecutive win for his period in charge would secure him the job and considering how good the ladies have looked since he took over I would be sad to see him ago. Although I was a big advocate of Hope Powell and all of the amazing work she has done on raising the profile of Women’s Football in the UK (it is now the biggest women’s team sport in the country), the improvement in technical ability since the European Championships cannot be denied.

I have really enjoyed watching the opening 3 games of England Ladies’ World Cup qualifying campaign and hope the winning run continues throughout future matches. It’s a shame that Thursday’s game won’t be televised, but I hope we’ll all keep our eyes on the score and I’m sure you’ll join me is wishing the ladies the best of luck in Turkey.