Women's Euro 2005: White the great English hope

Arsenal's rock of a centre-back leads a young team full of hope after a 10-match unbeaten run
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The Independent Football

Skipper Faye White believes a buoyant Eastlands crowd will give England a major advantage when they kick off Euro 2005 against Finland.

Skipper Faye White believes a buoyant Eastlands crowd will give England a major advantage when they kick off Euro 2005 against Finland.

Ticket sales had already reached the 24,000 mark on the day before the game and, with tickets available on the gate, a record crowd of approaching 30,000 could see Hope Powell's team start the tournament.

As well as reflecting growing interest in the sport, the Arsenal defender thinks the patriotic atmosphere could make the difference against the Finns.

White said: "About three weeks ago it was seven or eight thousand and we were thinking 'oh god, all this work, all this effort, and it's not going to pay off!' but with 24,000 sold now, hopefully there'll be even more on the day and it's a great feeling that so many people are going to turn up and support us.

"It's massive. I've played in front of 18,000 for a women's game and in front of 40,000 at Wembley prior to a men's game.

"But the fact that they're turning out just for us is going to give you that extra drive and determination on the pitch."

Unusually, White has already been able to see England's opening day opponents at close quarters, with all four Group A teams staying in the same hotel near Blackburn.

The 27-year-old is quick to identify Finland's main threats and continued: "Anne Makinen in the midfield and Laura Kalmari up front are their two main players but we won't be underestimating the others.

"Looking at the video tapes, they do tend to run the midfield and the forward line and they're two of the more experienced players.

"The other teams staying in the hotel adds to it and you can size up how tall they are and all that. We've seen them on tape but not in real life so it adds to the excitement.

"You kind of look at each other and as the tournament goes on I'm sure we'll interact a bit more, but to start off with you're worried about your business."

Head coach Powell, also mindful of Makinen and Kalmari, has no injury problems for the tournament opener.

She believes her team, who go into the game 10 matches unbeaten, can thrive in the atmosphere, despite growing levels of expectation.

"We've had the opportunity for the first time in probably three years to select our best squad, which we haven't had before," said Powell.

"If we contain ourselves and cope with the atmosphere, which I'm sure we will because it's something we've been working on, we can use that to our advantage and hopefully that'll be to Finland's disadvantage.

"We're as prepared as we can be and now it's all about when they cross that white line, and containing those nerves, and making sure they reproduce what they have in the last 10 games."

Tournament At A Glance

From humble beginnings in 1982 the event has grown in stature. This is the ninth tournament.

Germany have won it on the last three occasions. Sweden have been runners-up three times.

There are eight teams in two groups of four (England qualified automatically as hosts). Group A has Denmark, England, Finland and Sweden. Group B has France, Germany, Italy and Norway.

Czech Republic, Russia and Iceland all missed out in the play-offs

Betting: 8-11 Germany, 5-1 Sweden, 8-2 Denmark, Norway, 10-1 France, 12-1 England, 20-1 Italy, 40-1 Finland

Referees are: Nicole Pétignat (Swit), Cristina Ionescu (Rom), Dagmar Damkova (Cz Rep), Alexandra Ihringova (Slovak), Gyongyi Gaal, (Hun), Kari Seitz (US).

Fixtures:

5 June: Sweden v Denmark (Bloomfield Road, 5pm), England v Finland (City of Manchester, 7pm)

6 June: Germany v Norway (Halliwell Jones, 6pm), France v Italy (Deepdale, 8pm)

8 June: Denmark v England (Ewood Park, 6pm), Sweden v Finland (Bloomfield Road, 8pm)

9 June: Italy v Germany (Deepdale, 5.15pm), France v Norway (Halliwell Jones, 8pm)

11 June: England v Sweden (Ewood Park, 6pm), Finland v Denmark (Bloomfield Road, 6pm)

12 June: Germany v France (Halliwell Jones, 3pm), Norway v Italy (Deepdale, 3pm)

Semi-finals: 15 June (Deepdale), 16 June (Halliwell Jones)

Final: 19 June (Ewood Park)

TV: BBC2 (Live and Match of the Day ­ see daily schedules)

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