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Last Updated: Friday, 21 September 2007, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Women's keepers close ranks
By Tony Leighton in China

Ahead of England's World Cup quarter-final clash with America on Saturday, goalkeepers Rachel Brown and Hope Solo have joined ranks in defence of the keepers' union.

Argentina stopper Vanina Correa
Argentina keeper Correa blundered in the opening game
Two risible own goals by Argentina stopper Vanina Correa in the tournament's opening match, an 11-0 drubbing for the Argentines by Germany, had the women's game sceptics rubbing their hands in glee.

The tag 'dodgy keeper' was fixed to all female custodians, including Solo - one of the world's top female keepers - after she let the ball slip through her hands to register a goal for North Korea during the United States' 2-2 draw at the group stage.

Solo, 26, said: "When that goal went in it put us down and it could have cost us three points, so I had to immediately re-focus and play the way I had been playing.

"I'm very confident and happy with the way I'm playing, but on a day in the life of a goalkeeper it (conceding a goal) is going to happen.

"I disagree completely with the criticism of female goalkeepers. Physically we're there and generally the standards are high."

Everton's Brown, whose brilliant save late in the game against Germany earned a point that helped England qualify for the quarter-finals, points to key physiological differences between male and female keepers.

606: DEBATE
Claire S
She said: "There have been a number of high profile goals conceded where people might point finger at the goalkeeper, and that hasn't helped our cause.

"Some aspects of the job are more difficult for female goalkeepers than men, though, especially with the height difference

"There's a lot more goal for us to cover, when you consider the average stature of women goalkeepers compared to men."

England women's goalkeeping coach Keith Rees, a member of Everton's coaching staff in the club's Premiership set-up, agrees with Brown.

"Female goalkeepers have the same technical drills, the same fitness routines, the only difference is height," he said.

"But they also get fewer coaching opportunities," he added.

The women's game is essentially amateur compared to men's football and Rees said: "Rachel only gets a couple of technical sessions a week whereas in the men's game keepers are having these sessions every day."

Brown and Solo will have key roles to play on Saturday, when England take on the world's top-ranked team - twice winners of the trophy - as they bid to reach the World Cup semi-finals for the first time.

Brown said: "We took a lot of confidence out of our draw with America at the China Cup in January and we are even more confident after coming through the group stage of this tournament.

"They're arguably the best team in the world, but we don't fear them and we'll go into the game believing we can win it."

Seattle-based Solo said: "I don't go into games thinking we're the top team in the world, I don't care about rankings or statistics.

"It's a game of soccer and on any given day any team can beat the other team.

"If we're at our best we will win, but I respect the England team greatly and we will have to be at our best to win the game."



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