England women dream of ending German rule

Hope Powell's side head for the Euros determined finally to get better of the reigning champions

The England women's team go into the European Championship in Sweden knowing that they will need to be at their very best to finally overturn Germany, the overwhelmingly dominant force of the European women's game.

Germany have won the last five consecutive European Championships and they beat England 6-2 in the final in 2009. They also won the women's World Cup in 2003 and 2007, are ranked No 1 in the world and are comfortably the bookies' favourites. And they remain the one team Hope Powell's England have never beaten.

Of course, England have to get past France, Russia and Spain in Group C before they can try and get some revenge for four years ago. But England are increasingly confident of taking on the best after winning the Cyprus Cup earlier this year.

"We're ranked seventh in the world," said Powell before they flew out to Sweden, "and we have beaten all the top nations, except for Germany. The most important thing is we know we can beat the best nations in the world, we have beaten Japan, beaten Sweden, beaten USA and drawn with France.

"I think the challenge now for us is that we've got to do it when it really counts," she added. "The Cyprus Cup was a good confidence boost, though the Euros and the Worlds are universally acknowledged."

Powell did make clear that the success enjoyed by "Germany did not happen overnight", and that the English women's game was slowly moving along the path continental Europe followed years ago.

"We have made strides forward. It is challenging, we recognise that men's football is all-consuming. But we are moving in the right direction," she claimed.

England are taking a good squad to Sweden but have had to take a risk with the fitness of Kelly Smith, the legendary Arsenal striker who has struggled with shin problems this year but still made the squad of 23.

"Kelly's obviously a gamble, we know this," Powell said. "But I think the last Euros was 21 players, this is [a squad of] 23, so that gives us that little bit of luxury. We have recognised what Kelly can offer. So is it a gamble taking her? Probably. But I'm prepared to."

Smith, going to her seventh major tournament as an England international, is hoping to avenge the pain of 2009 by going all the way. "We hope and pray for that," Smith told Uefa.com. "We were delighted to have made the final in 2009 and disappointed to come away as runners-up."

There are still painful memories of that final in Helsinki four years ago. "Up until 60 minutes I think we were pretty much in the game; but with Germany's experience and strength and depth, they kind of took over the game," Smith added.

"I don't think we would crumble in those circumstances if we were to reach the final again: we've got a lot more experience at that level and better players. Hopefully we can reach that final and go one better."

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