England women’s national team coach, Hope Powell says her team has what it takes to reach the semi-finals of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup™.
The long-serving Three Lions mentor was speaking at the recent FIFA/CAF conference on the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 in Johannesburg, which was the first such global event with Asia’s equivalent conducted in Malaysia last week.
England have been knocked out at the quarter-final stage of the previous two Women’s FIFA World Cups but now Powell is aiming to take the team at least one step further at Canada 2015.
“In 2011, we thought it was a great opportunity for us to advance further in the tournament but it wasn’t to be, I think we played good football, but sometimes you need a bit of luck,” Powell told FIFA.com. “We didn’t lose a game, we were knocked out on penalties.”
“For 2015? Well, I have often avoided making predictions so that I don’t put the team under too much pressure, but we are aiming for a place in the semi-final. Once you are in the last four, anything can happen.”
Powell, having made her international bow in 1998, is one of the most decorated and longest serving coaches in the women’s game, and recently became England’s ‘most capped’ male or female manager, overcoming the previous record holder; Sir Walter Winterbottom.
Natural talent on the Mother Continent
Africa’s football family convened in Johannesburg to review Germany 2011 and explore ways to advance the women’s game on the continent, with Powell just one of many guest luminaries.
Powell told the attendees to channel resources into developing talent and also to learn from other "working formulas" around the world. She, however, insisted that Africans should not allow outside influence to dilute their style.
“I believe you can learn from all countries but you have to believe a lot in your philosophy," said Powell. "Fundamentally, you have to stick to your culture, your background and environment. There are so many different philosophies all over the world nowadays, so much that you might end up being lost. You need to find your identity then you can learn bits and pieces from the methods employed by other nations."
The England coach said a major problem thwarting women’s football was that coaches were not given enough time to settle and develop their teams. Short-term goals, she said, often take priority while the focus is not always on long-term success.
“It’s important to have long-term coaches for 15 years," Powell said. "We can’t fire coaches every week… When I started the job, if they based it on men’s game, I should have been fired, but of course I was given the benefit of being able to implement my plans and develop long term goals.
Powell said she was surprised that an African team has not advanced to the last four of the FIFA Women’s World Cup given the raw talent on the continent. “When we were at the World Cup draw, I was actually relieved I didn’t get Nigeria. I don’t think Africans appreciate the amount of talent they have – the physical presence and skill. They are strong. But they need to be patient.
“African teams are good, but maybe they need to improve in their tactical and technical awareness.”