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banner Tuesday, 19 June, 2001, 08:46 GMT 09:46 UK
England determined to prove a point
England coach Hope Powell
Hope Powell has set her side "realistic targets"
By BBC Sport Online's women's football correspondent Tony Leighton

The England women's team were in fighting mood as they jetted off to Germany for the European Championships finals.

Considered around Europe as the outsiders among the eight nations taking part, coach Hope Powell's side are determined to show they are not simply flying out to make up the numbers at their first major tournament for six years.

While Powell herself talked of setting "realistic targets" for the competition, her players were far more upbeat as they looked ahead with some relish to group matches against Russia, Sweden and Germany.

This is potentially the best England team I've been involved in
  Marieanne Spacey
Before boarding the team's FA-chartered jet at Luton Airport, Tranmere Rovers winger Sue Smith - recently named England's International Player of the Year for the second time in three seasons - said: "We have to go out there and show the countries that don't rate us that we are not little England any more.

"We want to put ourselves on the map and our aim is to get through the group stage to the semi-finals.

"When you get to the semis it becomes a bit of a lottery. Anything can happen, so although reaching the semis is realistically our aim, if we can get there we might go all the way."

Arsenal striker Angela Banks, scorer of over 40 goals as the Gunners completed a domestic treble, was equally positive.

International novices

She said: "If you get to the semi-final you're on such a high that you feel 'we can do this', and I think that if we get that far it will give us an edge.

"There is nothing better than the confidence that would give us."

Though they have 41 caps between them, Smith and Banks are international novices compared to Arsenal's Marieanne Spacey.

At 35, she is not only the oldest member of the 20-player squad but, with 89 appearances to her name, is also England's most capped current international.

Arsenal and England's Marieanne Spacey
Marieanne Spacey sees reason to be optimistic

Experienced though she may be, however, Spacey has been caught up in the mood of buoyancy that has spread throughout a squad whose average age is only 25.

A veteran of World Cup as well as European campaigns, Spacey said: "This is potentially the best England team I've been involved in.

"I have played in some great sides in terms of spirit and camaraderie, but this team can really go places.

"We've been really focused in training leading up to these finals and everybody knows the importance of the Championships.

Developing nation

"In the past, we have been a nearly-nation in women's football - and we don't want that any longer."

The fighting talk was tempered by coach Powell, who insisted: "Just to reach the finals was a fantastic achievement and now we've done that, we'll be setting realistic targets for the players both as individuals and as a team.

"We are still a developing nation in terms of international football, we are playing catch-up on the very best.

"But this tournament is going to be a great experience for our young players, who are certainly not fazed by the situation.

"Experienced players like Karen Burke, Karen Walker and Marieanne Spacey have played in major tournaments in the past, but a number of the youngsters have played tournament football at Under 18 level and they are a gutsy group who seem to have no fear.

"The side is more athletic than we were two or three years ago and technically we have improved, so although it's going to be difficult we would obviously like to qualify for the semi-finals."

To reach the semis England must finish in the top two of their group, in which they meet Russia on Sunday followed by former Euro winners Sweden and current champions Germany.

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