Smith off target but England look ahead

Germany women 3 England women 0
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The Independent Football

She may not have booked herself a place in the next Pizza Hut advert but Kelly Smith joined a fairly distinguished cast on Saturday when she missed a last-ditch penalty against Germany as England took their leave of another major tournament.

Admittedly, the stakes may have been somewhat higher when Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle spurned their spot-kicks in the semi-final shoot-out of Italia 90. And Gareth Southgate may have heard a louder groan of national despair when his penalty was saved as Germany progressed to the final of Euro 96.

Smith's failure from 15 yards, however, in the last minute of England's farewell game in the fifth Uefa Women's European Championship, still provided a frustrating finale to a tournament that has provided Hope Powell's team with some fairly hefty gradients on the learning curve of international football.

The women's game in England needs stars to look up to if it is to build on the recognition of having reached this eye-opening tournament.

And Smith is a star. She plays professionally for Philadelphia Charge in the Women's United Soccer Association League, she has attitude aplenty, a combination of skill and aggression that befits her hero-worship of Ian Wright and the ability to be as good as any woman in the world game.

So while her penalty would have made little difference – technically, it would have lifted England above Russia on goal difference in the 'going-home ' section of Group A – it would have grabbed her a bit more attention. And publicity will be the life-blood for the chances of the professional game in England. In September, Arsenal will compete in the inaugural European Cup and that can be the vehicle to maintain the momentum of public interest from this event.

If Smith's deft chip, just after Petra Wimbersky scored in the 57th minute, had also gone in, rather than hitting a post, England may well have gone on to gain their first point against the European champions in 11 games. Within four minutes, however, Bettina Wiegmann and Renate Lingor ended the contest.

Consolation was offered when Karen Walker was felled but Smith's penalty lacked conviction.

Now England's developing team return to Germany on 27 September to start their World Cup qualification programme but Powell is also looking to the long-term. The coach has a seven-year strategy to get the England competing on a level playing field.

"We are playing catch-up with the best teams in Europe, but this tournament has been an invaluable experience. This performance proves we can offer something against one of the world's best teams," she said.

Tina Theune-Meyer, the German coach, said: "In a few years England will compete with the best teams in Europe."

After the game, the Arsenal striker Marieanne Spacey, announced her international retirement.

ENGLAND (4-4-2): P Cope (Charlton); D Murphy (University of Florida), F White (Arsenal), K Chapman (Fulham), R Unitt (Everton); K Burke (Doncaster Belles), T Proctor (Charlton), S Britton (Everton), S Smith (Tranmere); K Smith (Philadelphia Charge), K Walker (Doncaster Belles). Substitutes used: J Fletcher (Charlton) for R Unitt (65), V Exley (Doncaster Belles) for S Britton (75), A Banks (Arsenal) for K Smith (90).

GERMANY (4-2-3-1): S Rottenberg; A Hingst, S Jones, D Fitschen, S Minnert ; B Wiegmann, R Lingor; P Wunderlich, C Muller, B Prinz; S Smisek. Substitutes used: M Muller for Smisek (h-t), P Wimbersky for C Muller (h-t), L Bresonik for Wunderlich (77).

Referee: B Skogvang (Norway).

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