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It is a big week for the female game. The UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualifying group stage draw was made yesterday, and tomorrow the UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-finals begin, leading to the decider at Fulham FC's Craven Cottage on 26 May.
England manager Hope Powell has more than a passing interest in that as not only is she the ambassador for the final in her home city, but two sides from the new English top division, the FA WSL (which launches next month), are still involved – Arsenal LFC playing Linköpings FC and Everton facing FCR 2001 Duisburg. Powell, who leads England in the FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany in June, spoke to UEFA.com about the importance of having the final in London.
UEFA.com: How much are you looking forward to the Women's Champions League final being played in your home city?
I'm really looking forward to it. I'll be even happier if the two English teams get to the final, but I think it's fantastic for women's football in this country that the final is actually being hosted in London and at Fulham. It will be a great occasion.
UEFA.com: With the Women's Champions League final and the Olympics next year, is it a real time to showcase women's football in England?
Powell: Yes, it's a great year actually, this year, for women's football. We've got our new WSL league, our new summer league, starting in April. Then obviously it's the Champions League, and then the World Cup. And then it's the Olympics the following year. So it's a great build-up. The Champions League is part of this, and the fact that it's hosted in London just gives us some momentum for women's football, and helps us raise the profile.
UEFA.com: How much do you think the Women's Champions League has helped the development of the game here?
Powell: It gives us another platform to raise the profile. And I think with two English teams still in it, it gives us an opportunity to utilise this period of time to spread the message about the women's game and get some kudos around it. So it's brilliant.
UEFA.com: The two English teams have tough quarter-finals coming up. How do you see those going?
Powell: it's going to be tough. I think at this stage all the games will be difficult. Obviously Everton have Duisburg, and we know about them; they have a lot of German internationals. And Arsenal have [Linköping]. There are experienced players in both sides, internationally, who have come through the ranks in terms of youth to senior internationals. And so have the English teams. So I think the competition and the contest will be very, very challenging.
UEFA.com: Have any club in particular from outside England impressed you over the last few years?
Powell: Obviously Potsdam and Duisburg, they are the two that really stick out. But I think if I focus on England, the fact that we are at this stage, with two clubs in it, bodes well for us in the future. It means that our game has really pushed on, and we're starting to compete with those clubs that are really well known.
UEFA.com: England are playing the United States in London on 2 April. Is it a measure of how far the team has come that it would not be a shock if you won that game?
Powell: I thought it was a good opportunity to test ourselves against one of the best teams in the world. And it will be a measure of where we are right now, leading up to the World Cup. So obviously we are going out there to try and win the game, but we are looking at ourselves as individuals, and collectively, to see if we have reached the level that will push us on. We did really well in the European Championship [runners-up in] 2009; this is now two years on, and we are hoping that that sort of game will really test us.
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