Mark Sampson says his England Women’s side have learned lessons from their 3-0 defeat by Germany at Wembley in November.
The Three Lions will entertain USA, another traditional powerhouse, at MK Dons on Friday night in a testing World Cup warm-up match, which will be broadcast live on the BBC Sport website from 8pm.
It will be England’s first match of 2015, their first since that loss to Germany, who were out of sight by half time. But Sampson believes his side are in a better place because of it.
England v USA
A Women's International
8pm, Friday 13 February
stadiummk, MK Dons FC
Tickets are priced £5 adults, £2.50 children
Live on BBC Sport website
He said: "We have learned some good lessons in terms of how this team is going to move forward and be competitive against teams like Germany, France and USA.
"We have got some good students of the game in this group, so they have gone away and looked at what we could have done better.
"For example, we need to make sure we have a good balance to our play. We have to be smart in terms of having players in the right areas to deal with counter-attacking situations, either for or against us.
"There is a gap between those top-tier nations and we have got to find a way to firstly close that gap and then one day go on to beat those teams consistently.
"We’ve got another huge test on Friday and we have to make sure we eradicate some of the errors we made in the Germany game. If we make similar mistakes against the USA it will be the same outcome."
“We need to play against these top-tier nations. It’s the only way we are going to learn”
Mark Sampson on USA
USA are among the favourites for World Cup glory in the summer. They have lifted the trophy twice – and have also collected seven CONCACAF Gold Cups and four Olympic gold medals, the biggest haul of any nation in the women’s game.
They enjoyed a month-long training camp in the States in January before flying to Lorient, where they were defeated 2-0 by France on Sunday, only their fourth loss in 25 matches.
In contrast, Sampson’s squad have only been together for five days, but the head coach said they used their time wisely.
He added: "It has been another positive camp for us. I can’t complain about the players’ efforts and their desire to improve and get better. It’s difficult because we don’t have much time together so we have to make every minute count.
"The likes of USA and Canada have been in residency for the last few months so it’s a difficult task for us to make up for lost time, but we do our best. The players are still in pre-season with their clubs but I feel we have made progress this week.
"We are in a good place to go into the game on Friday and give the USA a big test."
England qualified for the World Cup with relative ease, winning all ten matches and scoring 52 goals along the way. They have been drawn in Group F alongside France, Colombia and Mexico.
The Lionesses will take on Australia, Finland and Holland in next month’s Cyprus Cup before one more friendly in April, the last match before they board the plane to Canada.
Having faced Germany, FIFA’s top-ranked team, less than three months ago, Sampson is now readying his side for USA who are just one place below Silvia Neid’s charges.
Jess Clarke reflects on her goal against USA in 2011
In terms of preparation for the World Cup it doesn’t get much tougher – and that is the perfect situation for Sampson.
He said: "We all want to go to Canada and give a good account of ourselves, but we also know the hard work that has got to go on before we leave. Every single game and camp we have between now and the World Cup is crucial.
"Right now we are focused on USA, but we need to be ready for that first game, against France in Moncton. Playing against the likes of the USA will put us in good stead for the type of challenges we are going to face in the summer."
He continued: "USA have certainly got some top players, some world class footballers in their team. They pose a great threat, mainly because of their depth of talent. Whatever 11 they put on the field will provide a difficult game for any team. We have got to be ready for that.
"This is great preparation. We need to play against these top-tier nations. It’s the only way we are going to learn.
"You can speak about it and analyse it as much as you want, but the important moments are when you are in the heat of the battle, when you are up against the best in the world and you’ve got to deal with a situation you have not been in before."