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After the euphoria of qualifying for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, Hope Powell's England will begin their preparations in earnest later this month when they travel to South Korea to compete in the Peace Cup.
The Three Lions will initially take on the host nation and New Zealand in the group stage before a final match against either Taiwan, Australia or Mexico, depending on how they fare in the first two games.
Hope has been handed a major boost with the return to the squad of goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and defender Anita Asante, following lengthy injuries for the pair. Bardsley had been sidelined after breaking her collarbone in America, while Asante, now fully recovered from a knee injury, will be looking for her first international appearance since the Euro 2009 Final defeat to Germany last September.
"It's great to have those two back," said Powell, of the returning duo. "The timing of Karen's injury was really unfortunate, she was doing really well, so this is a good opportunity for her. Anita has been playing for Washington lately and it gives me the chance to look at her again in an England environment.
"Everyone will play some part in Korea," she continued. "We are playing against teams from the Asian continent which is a new experience and I'm hoping it will hold us in good stead for the World Cup. We are very attuned to the European style of play, I just think we need to stretch ourselves and develop further. We have to have an appreciation of the entire footballing world and this trip is a great opportunity for us to do that.
"The World Cup is the biggest tournament in the game and our work towards that started the day after we qualified. By our own admission, we never really hit the heights during qualifying and we never played as well as I know we can. Now it's time to up the ante. You won't get away with playing badly in a World Cup; you've got to perform.
"This is another vital piece of tournament exposure that we are going to get and I'm looking forward to it."
England's Peace Cup campaign will begin against South Korea on Tuesday 19 October with New Zealand providing the opposition two days later. England's final game will take place on Saturday 23 October.
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