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Page last updated at 20:00 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

England women get tough Euro draw

By Tony Leighton

Hope Powell
Powell has been England's full-time national coach since 1998

England have been drawn to play favourites Sweden, Russia and Italy in the group stage of next year's European Women Championship finals in Finland.

Twelve countries are split into three groups with the top two and best two third-placed sides progressing.

Manager Hope Powell is upbeat about England's chances, having lost once in 20 competitive games since Euro 2005.

"We are still developing as a team and this tournament will be another test in terms of our progress," Powell said.

Sweden, who England lost to over two legs in 1984's inaugural final and have never subsequently beaten, will be expected to win the group.

But Powell also has a high regard for the Russians and Italians, both of whom her team beat handsomely in their most recent meetings.

"Russia and Italy are fast developing and bringing through good young players, as shown by the performances of their youth teams," she added.

"Sweden will be tough, and we know that they will probably be considered favourites in the group.

"They are a traditional power, consistently highly-ranked in the world and always perform well at major tournaments.


"We regard them highly and we've learned a lot from their infrastructure. However, we are closing the gap."

England's only win in 19 meetings with Sweden came at Luton in the second leg of the 1984 final, but that left the aggregate scores level and the Swedes won on penalties.

In 21 games against the Italians, England have won just four, the most recent a comfortable 4-1 success at Milton Keynes in February 2005.

Russia have been faced only four times, but after failing to win any of the first three England ran out convincing 6-0 winners in March last year - also at Milton Keynes.

In their Euro 2009 group England will start with a match against Italy, at the Lahti Stadium on Tuesday 25 August.

They then play Russia three days later at the Helsinki Stadium and Sweden on Monday 31 August at the Turku Stadium.

The quarter-finals are set for Thursday 3 and Friday 4 September, the semis for Sunday 6 and Monday 7, and the final will be played on Thursday 10 September.

Full draw:

Group A - Finland, Ukraine, Denmark, Holland

Group B - Germany, Iceland, Norway, France

Group C - Sweden, England, Russia, Italy.

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