"It's massive," said England midfielder Fara Williams after their first victory against the United States in eight games since 1988, beating the reigning Olympic champions 2-1 at Brisbane Road in east London on Saturday.
England's victory against their fellow FIFA Women's World Cup contenders was built on a dominant first half-hour, starting when Jessica Clarke pounced on a loose ball in the box to open the scoring eight minutes in. After Williams had hit the bar with a free-kick, it was 2-0 in the 26th minute when Kelly Smith ran unchallenged for 40 metres and found Rachel Yankey to strike past goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart from the edge of the box.
Megan Rapinoe pulled one back before the break with a solo effort and, with Hope Solo replacing Barnhart for her first appearance since a shoulder injury last summer, the two-time World Cup winners dominated the second half, but England held on. It was the US's first friendly defeat since a November 2004 loss against Denmark, a run of 52 games.
Williams said: "I think it's massive. We've shown over the last few years that we're starting to compete with the big teams. It's just getting that result and getting the confidence that we are capable of beating them."
Hope Powell's side next month face Sweden – who beat Canada 1-0 in Rome on Saturday – before travelling to Germany to play Mexico, New Zealand and Japan in World Cup B from 27 June. The manager was full of praise for her team. "There were some really big performances tonight," Powell said.
"Fara got player of the match, put herself about, really bossed it in midfield. Life was made easy for her because of the work ethic of Jill [Scott] and the combination of Kelly [Smith] in there. I thought [goalkeeper] Karen Bardsley was excellent. Big player, big presence. Faye [White] did well, struggling with an injury."
Lone striker Ellen White was winning her 13th cap just over 12 months since her debut and Powell is delighted with the 21-year-old's progress: "Her work ethic is tremendous. She's a young girl with big ambitions – she wants to play for England. She's a goalscorer. She will chase everything down and it gives us an outlet. It's something different and we're pleased we've got that. We haven't had that sort of player in a while."
The depth in Powell's squad is also a boon for the 2007 World Cup quarter-finalists and UEFA Women's EURO 2009 runners-up, not least as Williams's regular midfield colleague Katie Chapman has taken a break from the team for personal reasons.
"We're in a position where we can bring players on from the bench who are quality," the manager said. "Karen Carney was on the bench, Anita [Asante] was on the bench, Eni [Aluko] was on the bench, and that bodes well for the future. But these results have got to happen when it matters – and the World Cup is when it matters."
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