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  Friday, 29 June, 2001, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
England face up to early exit
Italy may pip Norway to top spot in Group B
Italy have proved the dark horses of Euro 2001
By BBC Sport Online's Tony Leighton in Germany

While the Group B teams were competing in their second round of Euro 2001 group fixtures down in Reutlingen, England and the other Group A sides were involved in a somewhat less serious competition on Thursday.

For a couple of hours they forgot football and took part in a bizarre competition whose nearest equivalent would probably be the old TV favourite 'It's a Knock-out'.

Along with the German, Swedish and Russian squads, the England players were driven away from their shared hotel base in Erfurt and taken to a lake on which rowing boats and pedalos were awaiting them.

On the grassy lakeside were large, revolving wheels with football-sized holes in them, two giant bouncy castles joined together and a supply of half-sized footballs.

A surreal game took place involving volleyball in the bouncy castle, kicking the footballs through the revolving wheels and then having them ferried across the lake and back.

Mad? Yes, but it was also the biggest laugh the players have had since they arrived in Germany - and what's more England won!

Outsiders

Germany and Sweden tied for second place, with the Russians finishing bottom.

Could this be an omen for the final shape of the group? Sadly not, with England facing an early exit on Saturday unless the last group matches throw up an unlikely pair of results.

If England beat Germany and Russia hold the Swedes, Hope Powell's team will go through to the semi-finals as group runners-up to the Germans.

But after taking only one point from their first two games - the second a 4-0 defeat by Sweden - it looks as though England will be returning home on Sunday.

If that's the case they will be travelling back when Group B's final fixtures are played out, with the race for semi-final places wide open after Thursday evening's matches.

Hot favourites Norway were held to a 1-1 draw by Italy, who could prove to be the dark horses of Euro 2001, while Denmark beat France 4-3 in the most exciting game of the tournament so far.

That left Norway and Italy level at the top with four points each, while Denmark have three and France - favoured by many to finish the group as runners-up to the Norwegians - bottom of the table and out of the competition.


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


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