Buoyant England looking to make experience count at Women's World Cup finals

National team boss Hope Powell believes this is the strongest squad that she has taken to a major tournament, ahead of the 2011 World Cup finals in Germany
England women manager Hope Powell believes she has the strongest squad ever at her disposal as she prepares to lead them at the World Cup in Germany.

The England manager has a full complement of players to pick from including Faye White and Fara Williams, who were doubts for the tournament through injury.

Sixteen of the 21 players picked for the tournament play their club games in England for Women's Super League (WSL) teams. The remaining five players are at Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) teams in the US.

With an average age of 26, the squad is a blend of youth and experience and it contains 13 players who flew to China for the World Cup in 2007 plus fifteen of the current squad were involved in the European Championships in 2009.

Powell said: "There's a mixture of youth and experience in the squad, in terms of how close we are to the other teams it will be a test come the start of the tournament. It was a very challenging decision to pick the squad, but a challenging decision in a positive way.

"We can use the experiences we had in China – and in Finland at the Euros – to our advantage.

"The build-up to this World Cup has been really good. The players have matured well, a lot of them now know what it’s like to play in a World Cup and I’m hoping those factors will help us perform."

England will face Mexico in their opening group match followed by games against New Zealand and Japan in Group B. Powell’s team defeated Switzerland in a two-legged play-off last year to qualify for the tournament.

Recent victories over Sweden and USA - the No.1 team in the world - means they will be quietly confident ahead of the World Cup.

"I think it is important that we take one game at a time and that we progress from the group stage, otherwise we're going nowhere," Powell said.

"The standard of top-level women's football in this country has definitely improved and we are in a better place now in terms of players than we have ever been - I have got a really talented bunch of players to choose from."

England have never gone beyond the quarter-finals in a World Cup since its introduction in 1991, but the squad travelling to Germany stand their chance of progressing through to the later stages with the team amassing 1,041 international caps between them.

"There is certainly more competition for places, over the last couple of years the depth in the squad has been really important if you look at the likes of Germany and the USA," said Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's director of football development.

Powell insists that the women’s game in the UK is on the up and hopes that the government’s recent decision to invest in the game will provide a springboard for participation and interest in the sport.

She said: "We've made some radical decisions within the women's game. We've introduced the Women’s Super League and restructured the centre of excellence.

"We want there to be more opportunities for girls, we want there to be more girls playing and we want the league to be more competitive."

The FA will also be helping the game to develop by injecting an extra £3 million on top of the £4.5m that is already invested each year and the participation in the game has seen a change with an average of around 151,000 women playing football each week, making it the No.1 participation sport for women in the UK.

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