Powell prepares England to take on the world

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The Independent Football

The England coach, Hope Powell, has called on her players to "rise to the challenge" on the on the eve of their World Cup return and Group A opener against Japan. England are making only their second appearance in the tournament having last qualified for the finals in Sweden in 1995.

The event in China will be a new experience for much of Powell's squad, though they will be brimming with confidence having gone unbeaten in qualifying. And Powell insists her side will be thinking of nothing but victory against Japan at the Hongkou stadium today.

"We'll be going into every game wanting three points," said Powell. "We feel we've prepared the squad as best as we possibly can, and once that first whistle blows, hopefully the players will rise to the challenge.

"We've created an open environment where the players feed back to us all the time, and what we need now is a 'relaxed readiness' so they save their energy for the game. The players just want to get out there and start the tournament."

In Japan, England face an unknown quantity having never played the East Asian side before. Hiroshi Ohashi's team are vastly experienced World Cup campaigners, having featured in all four previous tournaments. "That experience, allied to their fitness and organisation make them opponents to be respected," Powell added.

* Defending champions Germany began their World Cup campaign in style yesterday as they set a record for the tournament by crushing Argentina 11-0. Birgit Prinz and Sandra Smisek scored hat-tricks as Argentina failed to improve on their 6-1 opening game defeat to the Germans in the 2003 event.

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