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  Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
England despair in defeat
Sweden players celebrate victory over England
Sweden proved too good for England
By BBC Sport Online's Tony Leighton in Germany

The mood of gloom in the England team's section of their Erfurt hotel must have deepened as a loud thunderstorm ferociously hit the city shortly after midnight.

A few hours earlier, in the scorching late-afternoon sun, England had found opponents Sweden as difficult to cope with as the weather in a 4-0 Group A defeat.


We are still not up to the standard of teams like Sweden, Germany and Norway
Karen Walker

If the storm had struck 24 hours earlier, the subsequent conditions at the Carl Zeiss Jena Stadium would have been much nearer normality for the England players and maybe, just maybe, they would have got a result.

But the change of weather they were hoping for came too late and now they are facing an almighty task to progress beyond the group stages.

They must beat Germany - something they have never done before - and hope that Sweden fail to beat Russia if they are to qualify for the semi-finals of the eight-nation tournament.

It is an unlikely combination of results, but in the hotel lobby after the game the players were looking ahead to Saturday's game with as positive an attitude as they could muster.

Positive attitude

Tranmere winger Sue Smith, England's 'Nationwide International Player of the Year' for the season just ended, said: "We are all feeling down right now but there's no point in dwelling too long on the defeat.

"It's hard to take and it shows we've a way to go to match the best teams in Europe, but we have got to get ourselves prepared for the Germany match and go into it believing we can win - if we don't take that attitude then we may as well go home now."

Smith was "gutted" with not only the result but also the fact that she had been substituted at half-time.

Her room-mate Rachel Yankey took over with coach Hope Powell looking to the Fulham forward for an injection of pace which might hopefully pull the game round.

Tina Nordlund, left, fights for the ball with Katie Chapmann
England must beat Germany, and rely on other results

Experienced striker Karen Walker, meanwhile, was again on the substitutes' bench throughout the proceedings. There were no moans from 'Kaz', however.

The Doncaster Belles player spent the evening consoling the younger members of the squad, which she reckons is the best in her 16 years of playing for England.

She nevertheless conceded: "We are still not up to the standard of teams like Sweden, Germany and Norway.

"We have some quality young players though, and if they mature well and other good youngsters join them in the squad I believe we've got a bright future."

England's short-term prospects do not look as bright, Germany having beaten Russia 5-0 on Wednesday following their 3-1 win against Sweden on Saturday.

Winning the group looks a formality for the reigning champions, who will meet Norway in the final if UEFA's seedings prove accurate.

Norway play their second Group B game of the tournament on Thursday, taking on Italy in Reutlingen after beating France 3-0 in their opening fixture.

Italy started their campaign with a 2-1 win against Denmark, who on Thursday face France with a kick-off time a couple of hours ahead of the Norway-Italy clash at the same SSV Reutlingen stadium.


Final

Semi-finals

Group A

Group B

Tournament news

Background features

Finals focus

ENGLAND SQUAD
Links to more Womens Euro 2001 stories are at the foot of the page.


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