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Hope Powell has named her squad for the opening match of the England FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying campaign, as her team takes their first steps towards the Finals in Germany in 2011.
The World Cup fixture is England's first match of the new season since returning from the UEFA European Championship in Finland, where they reached the Final of the tournament and finished runners up to Germany.
The current European silver medalists will be looking to get their World Cup campaign off to a positive start against a country they have never faced in competition before. Doncaster Rovers Belles' Rachel Williams and Chelsea Defender Dunia Susi come into a squad in place of England pair Kelly Smith and Karen Carney.
Smith misses out due to a long standing knee injury whilst Carney is rested after a long season of football in the WPSL and the Euro's. Both players will not be risked for the Malta fixture but will look to be back in contention for the next World Cup qualifier against Turkey in November.
Hope admits that expectations have been raised of the players after their performances in the Euro's, but the entire squad and staff are looking forward to the building on their progress and making sure they secure a place in Germany in 2011. "We are really looking forward to the new campaign, the main objective is to qualify for another tournament and try to reach another Final," she said.
"We have qualified for three tournaments in a row now and made progress in each one. We must make sure we qualify from our group, we have to finish top to reach the play offs for the World Cup, so every game is important starting with Malta.
"The players did fantastically well to reach the final in the Euros, we came up against the best team in the world in Germany who proved why they are so good and we have to learn from that experience. I think we would admit that we didn't always play our best football upon reflection at times over in Finland, but what we did show was how much character we have in our squad and we overcame many obstacles to reach the final, which was very pleasing.
"The experience of playing six games in a tournament will be vital for our players who will be able draw on that in the future."
Hope maintains that England now have to move forward and feels teams will try even harder against her side after their success at the Euros. "The objective now is to really kick on, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels or become complacent, the Euro's are now behind us and we have to focus on our group games ahead. Spain will obviously be the main challengers in our group, but we cannot afford to look past Malta, Turkey or Austria.
"I think teams such as these will step up now and treat games against us like their Cup Final, the more success you have, the more teams will look to upset the form book. We have never played Malta before, so I'm looking forward to a new challenge. We have started doing our homework on them already and we will be ready for them in Blackpool."
England's Head Coach is also looking forward to playing at Bloomfield Road, their first match on home soil since July. "We always get great crowds up north and the players and I are looking forward to coming to Blackpool FC, it's a great stadium and hopefully we will get a big crowd along to support the players, we had such great support from our fans in Finland and fingers crossed we get more of the same at Bloomfield Road."
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