If there was an air of disappointment among Hope Powell's
England players as they filed through the bowels of the Hongkou
Stadium following Monday night's 2-2 draw with Japan, it was
not the only emotion in evidence.
English hopes of an opening victory might have been scattered into Shanghai's night sky by Aya Miyama's last-gasp free-kick but the way Powell's team took the game to their opponents, their enterprising approach enhanced by a superb individual performance from Kelly Smith, meant there were plenty of positives to draw from their first outing on the world stage since 1995. As captain Faye White noted: "We've made a lot of chances against a side who've been in this environment many times before. We're still in it, it's still in our hands - we were 1-0 down and showed great spirit to come back."
Not surprisingly White was quick to commend Smith for her starring two-goal contribution. "We know that Kelly Smith has that kind of quality that can change a game. She's got magic in her feet," said White, adding that her Arsenal colleague had feared her "legs were going" with the nerves of the occasion at half-time. Fortunately for England, White's legs were still going strong in the closing stages when she struck her quickfire double. "She is someone very special that can do things against the very top players in the world," added goalkeeper Rachel Brown. "We are hoping for a couple more against the Germans, that would be handy."
Brown, whose quip "a clever marketing stunt" certainly stripped the mystery off Smith's boot-kissing celebrations, said England had definite grounds for improvement as they began preparing to face world champions Germany on Friday. "We can't afford to make errors like giving away free-kicks in such vulnerable areas," she said, alluding to the source of Miyama's two identikit strikes. "I think that was a basic lack of concentration and a little bit of immaturity in situations like this but we can take a lot of positives from this game. I think it's a good thing that we've come away with a draw against a top team in the World Cup and we are not happy."
As for the challenge of facing Friday's opponents Germany, who opened their title defence with that 11-goal rout of Argentina, Brown said: "It was pretty daunting watching them on TV but we played Germany in January and we matched them - we drew with them 0-0. We need to get something off Germany and that will be our next target."
England would love to take at least a point, given Japan will fancy their chances of beating Argentina, and with Smith on song they have cause for optimism. Reflecting on Monday evening's events with FIFA.com, the woman of the moment said: "We're a little bit disappointed with the result but we have to pick ourselves up for the Germany game. They're the world champions and we're going to be very focused. We are hoping to put on another good performance."