England vs. Belarus: Players Who Must Perform to Ensure Home Victory
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England's women need strong performances from three players if they are to reassert themselves on the world stage with a convincing World Cup qualifying victory over Belarus in Bournemouth on Saturday.
The team looked thoroughly unconvincing in this year's European Championships and managed only a single point from their three group games.
Unsurprisingly, they went no further in the tournament and manager Hope Powell was sacked upon returning home.
Nevertheless, there will be some familiar faces in the lineup for Saturday's game, some of whom are integral to an England victory.
Everything in the England team revolves around captain Alex Scott. With Powell's permanent successor yet to be appointed, Scott will assume greater responsibility in her role. A stubborn defensive performance is also required of Scott if England are to progress.
The Arsenal player has more than 100 caps for her country and her seniority makes her the perfect foundation on which to build a solid performance.
Scott has shown good form for Arsenal, despite the Gunners almost certainly failing in their bid to retain their Super League title.
If Scott can organise her defence and get her players to put the Euros behind them, England will emerge victorious.
Despite being the top-scorer in the league, Natasha Dowie was controversially left out of the England squad for the Euros. When the team struggled to score goals, it was easy to point the finger at Powell and use Dowie as a reason why she should lose her job.
Whether the decision to exclude Dowie directly contributed to Powell's dismissal is uncertain, but it was definitely a gamble that failed to pay off.
Dowie's form should make her the first name on the list when considering striking options and she has proved deadly for Liverpool all year. The Reds are top of the table, thanks largely to Dowie's 19 goals.
England will hope she shows the same form for her country.
Another Arsenal player, Danielle Carter is earning her first international cap in this game.
She has been brought into the side by interim coach Brent Hills because of the dynamic threat she offers on the wing, and at the age of 20 she has already asserted herself in the Super League.
Carter has eight goals for the Gunners this year, so Hills will be hoping that translates to the international stage. As the U23 coach, Hills has seen a lot of Carter and is confident that she is ready to take the next step.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Hills explained his decision to recall Dowie and offer Carter her first cap:
I've been impressed with what I've seen from those two this season. I know them from the Under-23s, I've spoken to their club managers and I feel that they've made a strong case to be included.
We all realise we underperformed severely in the summer, but you don't become a bad player overnight. This is a chance for the players to show they can bounce back. Talent always rebounds.
England should start the game with confidence, feeding Carter the ball and looking to get Dowie involved early on.
These two are the in-form players, and could hold the key to England's entire World Cup qualifying campaign.
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