We’re not cowards! Players hit back at coach’s words

England's Jill Scott, top, and England's Casey Stoney celebrate winning 2-1 after the group B match between New Zealand and England at the Women�s Soccer World Cup in Dresden, Germany, Friday, July 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

England's Jill Scott, top, and England's Casey Stoney celebrate winning 2-1 after the group B match between New Zealand and England at the Women�s Soccer World Cup in Dresden, Germany, Friday, July 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

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DEFENDER Casey Stoney has defended England’s women’s team against coach Hope Powell’s accusations of “cowardice” after their World Cup penalty shoot-out exit.

Stoney scored in the shoot-out against France before Claire Rafferty and Faye White, her colleagues in the back four, missed England’s final two penalties as they were defeated 4-3 following a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.

Powell told the Guardian yesterday: “Three times I had to ask (for volunteers) before anyone stepped forward. ‘Where are you?’ I was thinking, and then a young kid (Rafferty) 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.”

Stoney, though, said: “I don’t think any of the players are cowards.

“That’s not the impression I got from Hope. She said (after the game) we should all be proud and keep our heads high so I’m not sure where that came from.

“Hope asked who wanted to take penalties and my hand did not go up. I didn’t want to take one but my hand went up after Claire Rafferty, who’s one of our youngest players. Once hers went up, other players got a bit braver.

“It’s a situation we’d not been in before and I don’t think anybody really wanted to take a penalty but five people did.

“Those two wanted to take penalties,” Stoney continued. “Faye White, as captain, was great stepping up to take one and was devastated to miss. Claire’s a young player and it’s fantastic that she stepped up, it’s just disappointing she missed.”

Wearsider Jill Scott, who did not take one of the penalties, said: “We win as a team and lose as a team. People were Tweeting about individuals but we are a team and always will be!”

Powell’s future in her role is unclear, with speculation that she may move up into a performance director role.