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McCarthy stars as Everton rout Man Utd

Everton
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By ESPN Staff

England feeling confident

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 over a decade ago in Sweden 1995.

The event in China will be a new experience for much of Powell's squad, though they will be brimming with confidence having defied their critics and gone unbeaten during qualifying.

And Powell insists her side will be gunning for all three points against Japan at the Hongkou stadium in Shanghai tomorrow.

'We'll be going into every game wanting three points,' said the 40-year-old.

'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 Tuesday's game.

'The players just want to get out there and start the tournament now.'

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.

Though they have only progressed beyond the group stage on one previous occasion, in 1995, Powell insists they will not take their opponents lightly.

'That experience, allied to their fitness and organisation make them opponents to be respected,' she added.

'But we've had them watched five or six times since the World Cup draw, and know they have weaknesses that hopefully we can exploit.'

Anita Asante is the sole injury doubt for England after the Arsenal star injured her knee during warm-up at the team's training camp in Macau two weeks ago.

'Anita isn't quite there yet,' said Powell. 'After an MRI scan proved the injury was not as bad as first thought, she's fighting her way back into the frame.'