England manager Hope Powell acknowledges that her side will start as favourites in Sunday's UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ semi-final against the Netherlands, but she insists there will be no question of anyone taking Vera Pauw's team lightly in Tampere as they attempt to win a place in Thursday's decider against Germany or Norway.
The Oranje have been the surprise package in Finland, reaching the last four courtesy of a cast-iron defence and efficiency in front of goal, though they needed a penalty shoot-out to dispose of France in the quarter-finals after a goalless draw, having beaten Ukraine and Denmark in the group stage. England ousted hosts Finland 3-2 in a thrilling last-eight tie and beat the Netherlands twice in 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying but Powell knows it will be no easy task for her nation to reach their first final in this competition since she herself played in the inaugural 1984 decider.
"I think it would be a lie if I didn't think people were expecting us to win it, simply because we're higher ranked than the Dutch and everyone was looking at them and thinking they wouldn't be at this stage," said Powell. "We know what we're up against: the few times we've played the Dutch it's been very, very difficult and the last time we actually lost to them [to a Manon Melis goal in a March 2007 friendly in Swindon], so we're not taking anything for granted."
The Netherlands are making their women's final tournament debut while no England player remains from their most recent European last-four encounter, when they lost to Germany over two legs in 1995. "For both teams, it's their first time in a semi-final of a competition at senior level," added Powell. "It means a lot to both teams to go through. It's going to be challenging. We're not underestimating anything."
England will be without captain Faye White after she fractured and dislocated her cheekbone against Finland, though right-back Alex Scott could return from a groin problem. Netherlands coach Pauw is expecting the hardest of challenges whoever lines up in white. "It will be another tough game for us – very tough," said Pauw, who has a full squad to pick from. "We rate England higher than Denmark and France at the moment with the way they play, with a lot of movement, creativity and interchanging of positions. We need to be at our absolute top to beat them. If we're not able to play to our top level like we did [against France] we don't have much of a chance. That's just a realistic point of view."
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