England and Russia will both be looking to get their wayward campaigns back on track at UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ when the two sides meet for a high-stakes Group C game at Helsinki Football Stadium.
On Tuesday, ten-player England lost 2-1 to Italy and Russia went down 3-0 against Sweden. That means that if Sweden and Italy draw the earlier game on Friday, any eventual loser in the match between England and Russia would be out. Furthermore, if Sweden win England cannot afford to lose, with the same applying to Russia should Italy prevail.
Manager Hope Powell is confident that her England players know what is expected from them. "We've got to look forward and learn from the first game – there were a lot of positives to take out of that," Powell said. "But now we have to really bounce back if we want to stay in the competition. They know that; it doesn't need me to tell them that."
Powell also made it clear that England will find it tough to repeat their 6-0 friendly defeat of Russia in 2007. "They're a very, very different team; we know that," she said. "They've grown in confidence, certainly in stature, and I think 3-0 flattered Sweden if I'm honest ... We have to be prepared for a physical, tough contest." England will be without defender Casey Stoney after her 28th minute red card against Italy, while defender Anita Asante is a doubt after picking up knee and ankle injuries in that defeat, though Kelly Smith could start.
Russia, yet to win a match in seven finals fixtures, know they need to make a better start after conceding twice inside the first 15 minutes against Sweden. Coach Igor Shalimov, who has been working on both tactics and morale, is convinced that Russia will now be far tougher opponents for England than for Sweden.
"The players are in good shape mentally," he said. "We've played one of the favourites for the tournament and the nervousness was clearly seen. Only three of our players [Tatiana Skotnikova, Elena Fomina and Natalia Barbashina] have played at a European finals before and that was eight years ago. The others haven't had the experience at this level, but we cannot say that Sweden outplayed us. Our team will now play more confidently and more calmly. I've tried to get it through to them – and I'm sure they realise it – that they can play, that they should be more confident and that they can play better." A key decision, which Shalimov has yet to make, is whether to give another chance to goalkeeper Elena Kochneva, who made her competitive debut against Sweden, or usual first-choice Elvira Todua.
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