If Hope Powell is soon to step down after 13 years as coach of the England women's side, she has delivered quite a parting shot. After the defeat to France on penalties in the World Cup quarter-finals she accused some of her squad of "cowardice" for failing to volunteer to take a spot-kick.
Three of the back four stepped up in the shoot-out, with the 22-year-old left-back Claire Rafferty, who had been brought off the bench to make her World Cup debut 10 minutes from the end of the initial 90, and the central defender Faye White, the captain, in what may well have been her last game in an England shirt, missing the fourth and fifth attempts from the spot to send France through to the semi-finals.
"Three times I had to ask [for volunteers] before anyone stepped forward," said Powell. "'Where are you?' I was thinking, and then a young kid is the first to put her hand up. And Kelly Smith was dying on her feet but she stepped up and took one. You've got to want to take a penalty, but other players should have come forward and they didn't. That's weak, it's cowardice."
White, who smashed her penalty on to the bar before crumpling to the turf at the BayArena, was too upset to comment on Saturday evening, but expressed her thoughts on Twitter on Sunday. "Can only say that has to be the worst feeling to ever have to feel in sport. But I would rather try & give everything than not try at all!"
Casey Stoney, White's central defensive partner who scored from the spot in Leverkusen, was also disappointed by the lack of volunteers. "When Hope asked who'd be prepared to take a penalty no hands went up," she said, "but then Claire Rafferty volunteered and after one of our most inexperienced youngsters had stepped forward I felt it was my responsibility as a senior player to do the same.
"I was surprised and a bit disappointed that more players didn't volunteer. Kelly [Smith] couldn't even walk but she stepped up, took our first kick and smashed it in – that was inspirational. When I took mine it was the longest walk I've ever had to take, but I'd made my mind up where I was going to put the ball and thankfully it went in."
Story: John Ashdown
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