Williams, Unitt and Stoney could all win 100th cap in Cyprus Cup.
Three England Women’s players could earn their 100th cap in early March after being named in Hope Powell’s squad for the Cyprus Cup.
England will face Finland (28 February), Switzerland (1 March) and France (4 March) in this annual friendly tournament in Larnaca, matches which could allow midfielder Fara Williams (98 caps) and defenders Rachel Unitt and Casey Stoney, who has captained England throughout their Euro 2013 qualifying campaign, (both 97) to reach that special triple-figure landmark.
“They all broke into the senior squad at pretty much the same time and it has been nice seeing them mature and grow as players,” said Powell, of the expectant trio. “If you look at Casey, she didn’t kick a ball in the 2005 Euros but she worked really, really hard and she is now the captain.
“I have to applaud all three, though,” she continued. “They’ve all got different qualities, they’ve all done exceptionally well to get this far and they are all still in a position to have an impact on games.
“Getting to 100 caps is no mean feat in any sport, so credit to them for putting themselves in that position.”
While there is still no place for regular captain Faye White, who continues her recovery following knee surgery, Anita Asante returns to the squad for the first time since the World Cup, as does Sue Smith, who last appeared for England at last season’s Cyprus Cup. There is no place for Rachel Yankey, however, due to a hamstring complaint.
This year’s Cyprus Cup comprises three groups of four teams, with England drawn in Group A.
“The priority isn’t really a focus on exactly who we are playing, although all three of our group games will undoubtedly be tough, particularly France,” said Powell. “This tournament is more about giving me an opportunity to look at the players and see how they cope in a tournament environment.
“After [a training camp in] La Manga [in January] the competition for places is quite fierce now. We’ve got players coming back from injury, some other players are now injured which gives other players an opportunity, so it’s a really good chance to assess players over a good period of time to see how they do, particularly with the Euro qualifiers coming up again. The attitude and work ethic in La Manga was very, very good and hopefully we can build on that in Cyprus.
“Everybody will play some part, all being well.”
On Monday evening, the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league in America announced its intention to suspend the 2012 playing season, due to a legal dispute over the ownership of the South Florida franchise. Three England internationals, Alex Scott, Anita Asante and Kelly Smith, did ply their trade in the States, but Powell, who expressed sympathy for the current situation, does not believe it will prove a hindrance to her England preparations.
“It’s really disappointing that the league has experienced problems again, both for the League itself, the clubs and the players involved.
“But I’ve spoken to our girls that are based in America and told them not to panic. They’ve only just been told [about the WPS situation] and they need a bit of time to take it in. But they are all good players and clubs will want them. And the most important thing is that they want to play.”
After Cyprus, England will resume their Euro 2013 qualifying campaign against Croatia on 31 March.
“The priority is to qualify for the Euros and our next qualifier is approaching, so the Cyprus Cup will give us a great opportunity to prepare for that game,” said Powell.
Squad in full - click here for full player profiles
Karen Bardsley (Linköping), Rachel Brown (Everton), Siobhan Chamberlain (Bristol Academy), Carly Telford (Chelsea)
Sophie Bradley (Lincoln Ladies), Alex Scott (Unattached), Dunia Susi (Birmingham City), Casey Stoney (Lincoln Ladies), Rachel Unitt (Birmingham City), Fern Whelan (Everton)
Anita Asante (Unattached), Laura Bassett (Birmingham City), Steph Houghton (Arsenal), Jade Moore (Birmingham City), Jill Scott (Everton)
Fara Williams (Everton)
Karen Carney (Birmingham City), Jess Clarke (Lincoln Ladies), Kelly Smith (Unattached), Sue Smith (Doncaster Rovers Belles), Rachel Williams* (Birmingham City, Ellen White (Arsenal)
* replaced Eniola Aluko from Birmingham City