England coach Hope Powell is hoping to use the "boost" provided by the women's Under-19 team in Belarus last month as she prepares her side for the challenge of Italy in the opening Group C match of UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™.
Victory against Sweden in the final of the UEFA Women's European Under-19 Championship in Belarus was England's first silverware in any continental competition since the men's U18s triumphed in 1993. Powell, the only coach here in her third straight European finals, revealed the triumph has inspired her squad to aim to emulate that success in Helsinki on 10 September.
'Great for the game'
"It amplifies the work we've done with all the squads and those younger players coming through and pushing the seniors," said Powell, who has a fully-fit squad available, with the inspirational Kelly Smith over her recent knee problems. "It's great for the game and a lot of the senior players who came through that youth system are really pleased. For the whole game in England it's been a big boost."
Powell was in charge on home soil in 2005 when her side failed to progress beyond the group stage despite winning their opener against Finland. England are one of the teams fancied to provide a stern test to Germany, the holders, but Powell says the first goal is to advance from a section which also features Sweden and Russia. "Everyone will try and win their first game, as will we, but we'll also try to win our second and third game − initially it's about getting out of the group."
'Satisfied and proud'
While Italy, overtly at least, may not be setting their tournament goals as high as the three ski jump runs which loom large behind one of the goals at Lahti Stadium, Powell's counterpart, Pietro Ghedin, spoke with an air of confidence about the Azzurre's prospects. "We've been playing together for years," he told uefa.com. "My players have been very professional and they've improved with their respective clubs, not only with the national team. I am happy, satisfied and proud of them."
Italy have four wins and a draw from five competitive encounters with England, a sequence of results which certainly gives credence to Ghedin's desire for his charges to play "with no fear". He is, though, wary of the threat posed by the team rated ninth in the world. "England have improved a lot recently," he said. "They're high up in the European rankings. I have seen them many times and I can say they definitely deserve that position. We have to be careful."
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