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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 14:29 GMT
New faces feature in England squad
Kirsty Pealling
Kirsty Pealling is in line for her international debut
BBC Sport Online's Tony Leighton previews England's friendly international against Spain at Luton on Thursday.

The England women's team coach, Hope Powell, will take the chance to experiment in Thursday evening's friendly against Spain as she looks to crystallise her selection plans for the forthcoming European Championships finals.

Powell has drafted three international newcomers - Everton's Tina Mason, Kirsty Pealling of Arsenal and Doncaster Belle Aran Embleton - into her 23-player squad, while another three of the party have made only one England start apiece.

In their penultimate friendly before the European Championships finals, which take place in Germany during June and July, England will face difficult opposition in front of a crowd expected to be in excess of 5,500 at Luton Town's Kenilworth Road.

But although England will set out to give their growing army of fans a heartening victory, Powell's focus will be set three months ahead as she steps up her preparations for the Euro tournament.

Marieanne Spacey
Marieanne Spacey: A great squad 'buzz'
The coach said: "We shall be going into the game aiming to win it, but the most important thing will be how we perform as individuals and as a team.

"I'm looking at the long-term development of the side rather than wanting a one-off result.

"I know the capabilities of most of the players, but I'll be looking at certain individuals to see how they handle the international environment and to assess just how valuable they can be to the squad.

"Spain will be a good test for us. We've always had tight games against them in the past and they are still a very useful team.

"They only just missed out on qualifying for the European Championships (Denmark beat them in the play-offs) and they should be ideal opponents for us in terms of preparation for the Euro finals."

Looking ahead

England's group games at the finals have now been confirmed, with an historic match against Russia providing their first test.

When they step out at the FC Karl Zeiss Stadium in Jena on June 24, it will be the first time the two nations have met in a women's international.

The other two sides England face in Group A are as familiar as they are daunting.

In 12 previous matches against Sweden, whom they meet on June 27, England have won only once.

The record against host nation and reigning European Champions Germany, who are England's opponents on June 30, is even less impressive - 10 meetings, 10 defeats.

Powell's side will be the underdogs in two of their group matches, but they are growing in stature on the international scene and should not be overawed.

Experienced Arsenal star Marieanne Spacey, the country's most-capped current international, believes the England squad is on a par with any side she has been involved with during her long career.

As she looked ahead to winning her 88th cap on Thursday night, the 35-year-old striker said: "There's a tremendous buzz about this team, with it's excellent blend of youth and experience.

"After travelling the European road together, the squad has bonded and there's a real togetherness about it.

"If we were playing a side we could easily beat, that would be no real test and could give us a false sense of security as we look ahead to Germany in the summer.

"But we shall have our work cut out to get the better of Spain, and that can only be good for us."


England squad: Pauline Cope, Charlton Athletic; Leanne Hall, Doncaster Belles; Rachel Brown, University of Pittsburgh, USA; Danielle Murphy, University of Florida; Kirsty Pealling, Arsenal; Katie Chapman, Fulham; Maureen Marley, Everton; Tina Mason, Everton; Julie Fletcher, Charlton Athletic; Rachel Unitt, Everton; Karen Burke, Doncaster Belles; Aran Embleton, Doncaster Belles; Vicky Exley, Doncaster Belles; Tara Proctor, Charlton Athletic; Becky Easton, Doncaster Belles; Justine Lorton, Charlton Athletic; Sue Smith, Tranmere Rovers; Angela Banks, Arsenal; Kelly Smith, Seton Hall University, USA; Marieanne Spacey, Arsenal; Karen Walker, Doncaster Belles.

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