Football: Outclassed women need lessons in game's beauty

Pete Davies calls for remedies to a footballing malaise

Asked why he played a forward at left-back, the England manager, Ted Copeland, said, "We haven't got a left-back. We have lost three of them." Since he could name only two of the players he lost, and with difficulty, perhaps it is not surprising h e mislaid them.

To be fair, when England played Germany in Watford on Sunday in the semi-final of the sixth Women's European Championship, Copeland put out as good an 11 as he had available - and, as he said, "If you had told me a year ago that we would make the last four, I would have been happy with that."

But it is not quibbles over selection that has raised questions about the FA's management of women's football to date. For much as the comprehensive nature of the 4-1 drubbing dished out by the Germans is so often the case with English teams, we saw one

side playing football, the other tethered to the FA coaching manual. No amount of admitting that "we defended too deep" can disguise the superiority in technique, movement, flexibility, vision and athleticism that the visitors displayed so impressively.

On the credit side, England's women will be in the World Cup next June, along with the champions, the USA, the hosts, Sweden, plus Norway, Denmark, Germany, Japan, China, Canada, Australia and one finalist each from Africa and South America. Nor should defeat obscure the fact that England have some fine players. The captain, Gillian Coultard, is an inspirational 5ft nothing of ball-winning, midfield grit. Lesley Higgs, in goal, worked bravely to keep the German tally down, and, given a sniff at the ball , Karen Walker, Karen Farley, and Marieanne Spacey can give any defence a headache.

But overall, England were still baffled at the back, overrun in the middle, and picked off at the front. If Copeland says we have a lot to learn, there are many in the women's game wondering when we are going to start learning it. Vic Akers, the manager

of the National Division leaders, Arsenal, said: "They [the FA] have been in charge 18 months now and they talk about a development plan. But I haven't heard a single word yet about what they actually intend to do."

So the sport continues undernourished, desperate for resources, sponsorship, organisation and publicity. Belatedly, perhaps, with the FA's director of public affairs, David Davies, taking over responsibility next month for the promotion of the game, we may now see a greater effort. After Sunday's match Davies said he saw "enormous potential".

But if better PR can improve on Sunday's pitiful crowd of 937 it can hardly remedy deficiencies on the field, and the sooner the dead hand of Charles Hughes's FA coaching department is lifted from the women the better. English `direct play' has faired poorly internationally for the men. For the women, whose game is slower and less physical, more fluent and considered, it is doubly inappropriate. As Akers says of Hughes and his team, "I wonder how conversant they really are with women's football. Becauseit isn't about smashing the ball all round the park."

It is, instead, about technique and coherence, about passing and control, and on Sunday England ran out of the lot. With six months to go to the World Cup, the FA must therefore think long and hard about its approach to the women's game, and it must consult a good deal more with those people who know and understand the women's game. Otherwise, on Sunday's evidence, England's participation does not appear likely to be either happy or prolonged.

Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Life and Style
Men with beards rejoice: Your beard probably doesn't harbour faeces-like bacteria
health
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before