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Football - 15. January 2013.

Big Year begins in LA Manga

Hope Powell has taken her England Women’s squad to La Manga to begin preparations for this summer’s European Championship Finals.
The Three Lions qualified unbeaten for what will be their fifth straight appearance at a major tournament and Powell will use this week’s training camp to hone her charges ahead of another big year for women’s football.
The National Coach has seen England’s stock rise in recent years, guiding her side to an all-time high of sixth in the FIFA rankings, but she refuses to rest on her laurels ahead of Sweden 2013.
Powell told UEFA.com: “We have to recognise that while we think we've progressed, undoubtedly so has everybody else.
“So one thing we can be sure of [is] that [the Euros] will be a very, very tough and challenging tournament.
“[In] 2009 we managed to get to a final and our ambition is to continue to get better, and getting better would be to get to the final again. So we wait and see.”
Powell has said many times over the last 18 months that this is the best collection of England players that has ever been available to her, and a younger batch are starting to pressure the more established internationals.
In 2012, Powell handed senior team debuts to two 21-year-olds in Jade Moore and Toni Duggan, while former U19 captain Jordan Nobbs worked her way into the last two squads of the year.
Faye White’s pregnancy gave 23-year-old Sophie Bradley the chance to shine alongside Casey Stoney in the centre of defence, and Steph Houghton, Rachel Williams and Claire Rafferty can now consider themselves senior team regulars.
And Powell is delighted to have such a healthy competition for places.
She added: “If I compare it say to five years ago, we've got a little bit more strength, a little bit more depth.
“The competition is fierce, which for me is a good thing; for the players it is a good thing as well.
“It means they work that much harder, they're that much more diligent, they want to play, and selection is not easy.
“So the depth is good. We've got a good mix of experience and young talent coming through.
“But the most important thing is: when you are in the tournament it's got to count for something, so when the tournament begins is really when we can ascertain and measure whether those players are up to the mark.”
Euro 2013 preparations will continue with England's participation in the annual Cyprus Cup competition. They will take on Italy, Scotland and New Zealand between 6-13 March.
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