Hope Powell sets out England's World Cup 2011 plans
England's players have a busy year in prospect
By Tony Leighton
Coach Hope Powell is steeling herself for a challenging year as England begin their build-up to the Women's World Cup with a training camp in La Manga.
After reaching the Euro 2009 final, which they lost 6-2 to Germany, expectations will be high when England head to Germany in June to take on the world's best.
To help meet those expectations Powell has set her players a demanding schedule, starting with this week's training camp that will include behind-closed-doors friendlies against tough opposition in Norway and Holland.
It will be the first time that the national coach has brought her squad together since the World Cup group draw pitted them against Mexico, New Zealand and Japan.
"Warm-weather training is a great way for the girls to start the year," said Powell. "But it will be hard work throughout the week and every bit as hard when we get into games against two sides that can really stretch us.
"These sorts of games are ideal at the start of a World Cup year, and with more like them coming up we're aiming to be totally prepared when we get to the finals."
The route to the final will certainly be more difficult than it is to reach the final of a European Championships, but after doing that at Euro 2009 there'll be a lot of expectation on our shoulders to do well
England's first competitive games of the year will be in the Cyprus Cup at the beginning of March, when their group opponents will be Italy, Canada and Scotland.
The 12-nation event, which England won in 2009, includes eight teams ranked in the world's top 20, with seven of them set to compete at the World Cup finals.
Powell added: "The Cyprus Cup seems to be growing each year and there are additions this time that certainly add to the quality.
"After that tournament we're hoping to have a couple of friendlies at home before we fly out to Germany for the finals, which could be the toughest World Cup ever."
England reached the quarter-finals of the 2007 World Cup in China, but Powell has refused to reveal her aims for Germany 2011.
She said: "The route to the final will certainly be more difficult than it is to reach the final of a European Championships, but after doing that at Euro 2009 there'll be a lot of expectation on our shoulders to do well in Germany.
"We have definitely got the capability to do well out there, but it will take an awful lot of hard work and I won't look any further than my first priority, which will be to get out of a very tough group."
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