With a few words from Rachel Unitt and Hope Powell...
After the heartache of being the only outfield player not to step on to the pitch at the 2007 Women’s World Cup finals in China, Everton left back Rachel Unitt’s dream of playing in the biggest tournament in the women’s game came true in Germany yesterday.
Unitt was in the starting line-up as England drew 1-1 with Mexico at the Wolfsburg Arena, her Everton colleague Fara Williams opening the scoring but Monica Ocampo firing in the equaliser.
It was disappointing result for Hope Powell’s team, but with quite a consolation for 29-year-old defender Unitt as she collected her 90th international cap.
“It’s always great to play for England,” said Unitt, “but this was extra special. I was devastated not to get a single minute of action in China, but that’s passed me now and I think the experience made me a stronger person – and it was just fantastic to walk on to the pitch for this match.
“The result was disappointing, in fact the girls feel as though we’ve lost the game after dominating so much of it. But we didn’t lose and there were lots of positives to take out of the game, so we’ll get ready to go again on Friday.”
The pressure will be on England to beat New Zealand in Dresden on Friday, Japan having beaten the Kiwis in yesterday’s other Group B match to put themselves in pole position to win the group.
Powell’s side should also have three points after dominating the early stages of a match watched by a crowd of 18,702 in the 26,000 capacity Stadium.
They looked set for a comfortable victory after Carney floated in a 21st minute corner for Everton Williams loop a 12 yard header just under the crossbar.
But they were stunned when left winger Monica Ocampo stepped inside right back Alex Stoney to loft a 30 yard drive over goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and into the roof of the net.
And it almost got worse for England when striker Maribel Dominguez sent a 20 yard free-kick inches wide four minutes after the break.
England striker Eni Aluko then contrived to miss a hat-trick of openings in a 12-minute spell, completely missing her kick when three yards out from the first chance, shooting straight at goalkeeper Cecelia Santiago from the second and then screwing a 12 yard shot hopelessly wide from the third.
Both sides went close to grabbing a winner in the closing stages, but England avoided a shock defeat in stoppage time only through a tremendous block by substitute Ellen White from a powerful goal bound effort by winger Stephany Mayor.
National Coach Powell said: “We had chances and should have scored more goals, but the turning point was the (Mexico) goal. I’ll have to look at it again, but Karen’s very disappointed and I thought she should have saved it.”
“In the first half we dominated, but the equaliser gave them confidence after they’d been on the back foot. In the end I was disappointed that we didn’t win, but I was also pleased we didn’t lose and now we’ll do our best to beat New Zealand.”
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