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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 12:09 GMT
Walker blow for England women
England captain Karen Walker
The loss of Walker would be a huge blow to England

England v France |
World Cup qualifier
Sat 16 Nov

England's already dented hopes of reaching the 2003 Women's World Cup finals have been further harmed by an injury to captain Karen Walker.

Coach Hope Powell has named the Doncaster Belles striker in an unchanged 23-player squad for the second leg of the qualifying play-off final against France, who won the first leg 1-0 at Selhurst Park on 17 October.

But Walker is struggling with an ankle ligament problem which could force her to miss the make-or-break second meeting in St Etienne on 16 November.


I'm not getting it into my head that I won't be in St Etienne
Karen Walker

The veteran striker - England's record scorer with 40 goals in 79 appearances - had to sit out her club team's Premier League Cup tie against Manchester City on Sunday after sustaining her injury at Southampton Saints a week earlier.

Walker said: "The day after I got injured I was told I could be out for six to eight weeks.

"But I've been having treatment every day and the ankle is responding well, so I'm optimistic.

"I'm still on crutches, but I'm not getting it into my head that I won't be at St Etienne.

"The England medical staff are fully aware of the situation and the final decision will be down to them - but I'm determined to be there."

With America-based striker Kelly Smith ruled out through a long-term knee injury and Arsenal's Angela Banks recently retired from international football, the loss of Walker would leave England bereft of striking experience.

The other three forwards named in Powell's squad - Amanda Barr, Jody Handley and Una Nwajei - only have eight senior international starts between them.

So if Walker is ruled out it will be a major blow to England's chances of reaching China 2003.

Having now lost on each of the last four occasions they have met France, Powell's team have been handed another bad omen through the choice of venue.

It was at St Etienne in 1998 where Glenn Hoddle's England team saw their World Cup dream ended.

David Beckham was sent off and David Batty missed a spot-kick to hand Argentina a penalty shoot-out victory.

Another shoot-out could be in prospect on 16 November - if England win 1-0 to level the aggregate scores at 90 minutes, the tie will be decided by either an extra-time golden goal or penalties.

And who is England's penalty specialist?

Karen Walker.


England squad:

Goalkeepers: Pauline Cope (Charlton Athletic), Leanne Hall (Leeds United), Rachel Brown (University of Pittsburgh).
Defenders: Casey Stoney (Charlton Athletic), Kirsty Pealling (Arsenal), Faye White (Arsenal), Mary Phillip (Fulham), Rachel Unitt (Fulham), Julie Fletcher (Arsenal), Leanne Champ (Arsenal).
Midfielders: Karen Burke (Leeds United), Rachel McArthur (Fulham), Kristy Moore (Fulham), Fara Williams (Charlton Athletic), Vicky Exley (Doncaster Belles), Sammy Britton (Leeds United), Carly Hunt (Doncaster Belles), Rachel Yankey (Fulham), Sue Smith (Leeds United).
Forwards: Karen Walker (Doncaster Belles), Amanda Barr (Charlton Athletic), Una Nwajei (Fulham), Jody Handley (Doncaster Belles).

See also:

18 Oct 02 | Football
17 Oct 02 | Football
16 Oct 02 | Football
17 Sep 02 | Football
Links to more Football stories are at the foot of the page.


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