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Walsall to host Euro showdown
 Women's Football News 7 Aug 2012
Walsall's Banks's Stadium could be the venue where England seal qualification to next year's Euro Finals. 
The League One club has been selected by the FA to host England's final qualifier, against Croatia, on the road to Sweden 2013 and a win will secure a place at the Three Lions' fourth consecutive European Championship Finals.
Only the top placed nation in each group will automatically qualify for the Finals and Hope Powell's charges currently lie second in Group Six, two points behind Holland but with this game in hand, and it must kick off at 5pm in order to coincide with every other final group stage qualifier.
The last time England and Croatia met, in Vrbovec in March, a Steph Houghton brace helped guide the visitors to a comfortable 6-0 win.
"It all comes down to this game," said Hope. "We are unbeaten in qualifying and just need three more points to make it to Sweden so we know exactly what we've got to do.
"It is vital that we continue to qualify for major tournaments to keep raising the profile of women's football in this country," she continued.
"The level of support Team GB had throughout the Olympics was unprecedented and we hope that support for the women's game carries on.
"Over 70,000 people watched us beat Brazil at Wembley and hopefully people now recognise how good women's football actually is, and I'd like to think fans will come out in force to cheer England towards the Euros.
"We have played at Walsall a few times before and they have always been excellent hosts. Their pitch and facilities have been really good, so I'm looking forward to going back there again."
As Hope alluded to, Walsall have hosted England three times in the past. In 2005, they beat Czech Republic 4-1 in a friendly, in 2007, 8,632 people watched the Three Lions put four unanswered goals past Belarus in a Euro 2009 qualifier and in July 2010, Banks's Stadium was where Rachel Yankey earned her 100th international cap, and scored in a 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Turkey.
"We are delighted to be hosting this prestigious fixture," said Saddlers' Chief Executive Stefan Gamble. "This is a crucial game for England and we are extremely proud that the game is taking place here at the Banks's Stadium.
"We have hosted a number of International fixtures in recent years, including fixtures involving England Women, and are looking forward to welcoming Hope Powell and her team in September."
Following on from the success of the England Football Party held before the last home qualifier, against Holland in June, the family-friendly festival will take place outside the stadium before the game. Fans are once again urged to come dressed in face paints, wigs and fancy dress and be prepared to make some noise.
Entry is free for Under-12s when accompanied by an adult and every child in attendance will receive a free England party bag.

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