England coach Hope Powell tells UEFA.com about a "fun and enjoyable" year in which they qualified for UEFA Women's EURO 2013 and she led the first British women's Olympic squad.
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UEFA.com: How would you sum up the year for England and the Great Britain Olympic team?
Hope Powell: Yes, it's been an interesting year. The EURO qualifiers didn't start too well, having dropped early points against Serbia. And credit to them, they did really well. So it felt like we were chasing all the time. Obviously the Dutch were quite challenging in our group, so we were chasing from the outset. And obviously then we had to have a break in between, and contend with the Olympics, which was a first for a GB team – thoroughly enjoyable. But it's been a bit bitty, and then you deal with the Olympics and then it's back into the qualifiers. Thankfully we managed to qualify. But it's been an interesting year, very challenging, but at the same time equally fun and enjoyable.
UEFA.com: Are there things you learned from the Olympic experience that you'd never had before while managing England?
Powell: Every time I manage, or any major tournament I go into, I think we always learn something, certainly I do. I think the Olympics were very different, very new, a very unique experience. And it was more about the whole concept of Team GB, it wasn't just football, it was all the other disciplines involved. And for us to be part of that and share experiences with other sports and learn from other sports really, I think, will help us and help develop our game, and become, as a result, hopefully better.
UEFA.com: And for the players as well, because there has never been that spotlight on women's football like there was in the summer ...
Powell: Very unique. You know, the crowds, there was a very different family atmosphere, the opportunity to play at Wembley ... Just the whole experience was something completely different. But as I said, we learned a lot. We got a lot out of it. The media coverage was unprecedented, and hopefully it's something we want to build on in the future.
UEFA.com: You reached the 2009 EURO final, can you go one better?
Powell: I think we have to recognise that while we think we've progressed, undoubtedly so has everybody else. So one thing we can be sure of [is] that it will be a very, very tough and challenging tournament. [In] 2009 we managed to get to a final, and as I said our ambition is to continue to get better, and getting better would be to get to the final again. So we wait and see.
UEFA.com: The teams you've fielded recently, there's been some players who have been regulars who have been on the bench. The competition for places seems to be greater than ever ...
Powell: I think so. If I compare it say to five years ago, we've got a little bit more strength, a little bit more depth, the competition is fierce, which for me is a good thing; for the players it is a good thing as well. It means they work that much harder, they're that much more diligent, they want to play, and selection is not easy. So the depth is good. We've got a good mix of experience and young talent coming through. But the most important thing is: when you are in the tournament it's got to count for something, so when the tournament begins is really when we can ascertain and measure whether those players are up to the mark.