Hope springs eternal for England in World Cup

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AFTER Stuart Pearce took Fabio Capello’s lead and failed at a major tournament earlier this month, England’s hopes of footballing success now rest with Hope Powell and the women’s team.

The Three Lions kick-off their World Cup campaign on Monday against Mexico in Germany determined to improve on their quarter-final appearance of four years ago.

Games against New Zealand on Friday and Japan on Tuesday, July 5 will then conclude the group stage for England, who qualified for the finals by defeating Switzerland over a two-legged play-off.

More than half of the 21-woman squad travelled to the 2007 finals in China and manager Powell believes that should stand her side in good stead.

The England chief said: “We can use the experiences we had in China to our advantage. The players have matured well, a lot of them now know what it is like to play in a World Cup and I am hoping those factors will help us perform. You can never ignore your past experiences, you just need them to come to the fore at the right time.”

Powell’s squad is made up largely of players from the fledgling FA Women’s Soccer League with Arsenal and Everton contributing half of the 16 who travelled to Germany last week. The other five come from the American League.

England warmed up for the World Cup by winning friendlies against Sweden and the United States, two of the top five rated countries in the world.

Powell, who has been in charge since 1998, added: “You want to go into a major tournament on a high, full of confidence and knowing you are capable of beating leading nations in the game. USA and Sweden are certainly that.

“The most important thing is that we have to get results when it matters. At a World Cup, you have to perform and you have to win. First and foremost, we have to get out of the group and it will be tough. We must not lose sight of that. But the two wins (over the US and Sweden) definitely gave us confidence.”

England, who finished runners-up at Euro 2009, know that the hosts are favourites to triumph.

Not only have Germany won the last two World Cups but they also triumphed in the last three European Championships.

On her own team’s chances, Powell believes the increased expectation caused by their good showing at Euro 2009 is something the players will handle.

She said: “I think it is sometimes easier to go into a tournament as an underdog, when the expectation isn’t on you. It is a bit easier for players to manage.

“But now the expectation, the cameras and the focus will be on us. It is a different challenge, a different experience to what we have had in the past.

England’s games at the world cup

England’s group games:

June 27 v Mexico (Wolfsburg), July 1 v New Zealand (Dresden), July 5 v Japan (Augsburg).

Group A: Germany, Canada, Nigeria, France.

Group B: England, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand.

Group C: USA, Korea, Colombia, Sweden.

Group D: Brazil, Australia, Norway, Guinea.