Final hurdle awaits England
© AFP

It was, indubitably, the steepest hurdle for England in their quest to advance from Group A. Facing a Germany side that had won 16 of 17 previous meetings against them and whose current cast, led by the outstanding Birgit Prinz, had fired 11 unanswered goals past Argentina in their opener, Hope Powell's charges needed to take something from the game to maintain control of their own destiny.

Having passed their acid test and held the FIFA Women's World Cup holders to a goalless draw, though, the 'Three Lionesses' must now take the final step in this first phase and beat Argentina by a winning margin of two goals or more to make sure of a place in the last eight.

Not that achieving a satisfactory result is a foregone conclusion. Argentina looked much-improved last time out against Japan, when only an 11th-hour Yuki Nagasato goal denied them a goalless draw. "We're now considering this the hardest game we have to play because of what rides on it," said England defender Faye White, whose imposing display against Germany pocketed her the Player of the Match award.

"We know we have to get a result. The two good performances we've put in already mean nothing. This is where it counts. We have to make sure we finish the job against a team we know aren't going to lay down and let us get the result we want. They're playing for pride. They gave a good account of themselves against Japan and showed they had resilience and fighting spirit."

Complacency, it would seem, is something Powell will not allow into her camp ahead of England's first ever encounter with Argentina. "We've never played them before so they're a bit of an unknown quantity in women's football. But obviously through the men's side there's a special feeling between the two sides," White said.

"But we're just focusing on our own goals. We came here believing in ourselves that we had improved vastly over the last couple of years, and we knew we could compete on the stage and wanted to show that. Our goal is to get out of this group and see who we draw in the quarter-finals," she concluded.

Kelly Smith, the standout performer in England's 2-2 draw against Japan in their first match, is also refusing to underestimate Argentina, who arrived in China as the reigning South American champions. "We know we're going to have a tough game," said the gifted No10.

"I think in their opening 11-0 loss to Germany the Argentines were still jet-lagged and this was the only reason for the big scoreline. They stretched Japan all the way in their next game and we know we're going to have a game on our hands against them."