Hope revels in squad strength
Tuesday, 01 March, 2011
National Coach happy with her players' competitive nature.
Ahead of Wednesday’s Cyprus Cup opener against Italy, which could hand Kelly Smith her 100th cap, Hope Powell has articulated her satisfaction with the level of competition among her players.
England have been training in Larnaca since last Friday and the National Coach has been impressed with the appetite her squad has shown, particularly as the FIFA Women’s World Cup is just under four months away.
“There’s been a good energy among the group this week,” she said. “They’ve worked hard and they look sharp. So far, so good.
“This tournament will give us the opportunity to try new things ahead of the World Cup and everybody will get playing time in a less pressurised environment - even though we want to do well, obviously. And sometimes when you are more relaxed you get a bit more out of yourself.
“We will use this time to prepare [for the World Cup], tweak a few things and practise them.”
The game against Italy is England’s first competitive fixture since they qualified for Germany 2011, although a January training camp in La Manga has given Powell even more reason for optimism at the beginning of this big year for women’s football.
“The week we spent in La Manga was very, very good,” she reflected. “Probably one of the best we’ve spent out there in terms of the players’ application, because it is a very demanding camp. That could be because the standard of player has increased the level of competition and that can only be a good thing for us.
“It’s the most competitive squad I’ve ever experienced in my 12 years as coach,” she continued. “The standard of player we’ve got coming through now and the international experience they have already had in the younger age groups means they can cope with the demands of the senior team better. They want to play and they are working hard to get into the squad. And the players who have been in the squad for a long time are now having to work even harder to stay there.
“But, I have to say, it’s a healthy competition. They encourage each other to do well and they applaud each other when they do something well in training; they give credit where credit’s due and that’s nice to see because the very nature of the game means that they are all competing for starting places.”
After Italy, the Three Lions will tackle Scotland on Friday and Canada on Monday before one final match against one of the other eight nations in the competition. First up, though, are the Italians, who beat England in their opening match of the 2009 European Championship in Finland.
“A couple of their players have retired, so we know there will be a few changes from the last time we played them,” Powell said.
“We still expect them to play the way they did in the Euros. They are technically very good and they play a short passing game with good movement so, although they haven’t qualified for the World Cup we know it will be a good test because they will be rebuilding for the next campaign and will no doubt have players hungry to do well and stake their claim.”