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Hope Powell has named her England squad to take on Croatia in a crucial UEFA Euro 2013 qualifier at the end of the month.
The National Coach had initially earmarked Kelly Smith, Sue Smith and Fern Whelan for inclusion, but injury robbed Powell of the trio's services. Dani Buet and Natasha Dowie have been called up in place of the two Smiths, while Whelan has been replaced by Chelsea defender Gemma Bonner in what is her first senior team call up.
"Gemma has been doing well at both Chelsea and in the Under-23s," said Hope. "She's raw and has still got a lot to learn, but she deserves a chance to experience the senior set-up and this game gives me an ideal opportunity to have a look at her.
"It's unfortunate that we have had to call her up because of the injury to Fern but it gives Gemma a chance to showcase herself."
Such is the progress being made by England teams at youth level that eight of the team who finished runners-up in the 2007 Euros in Iceland now have senior team experience, and while Bonner, who was in the Under-19 squad who lifted the Euro title in 2009, is the latest senior team graduate, Hope points out that this development process has been happening for years.
"If you look at Fara [Williams], Casey [Stoney], [Rachel] Unitt, Rachel Brown, Karen Carney, Eniola [Aluko], they have all come from the Under-17 and Under-19 squads, so it just shows the value of giving players that experience at youth level," she said.
"And the more experience they get there the better equipped they will be at the senior end. That's why we have the youth squads, so the players can learn about the international environment, and the idea is to move as many of them through to the seniors as we can."
Hope has called upon her charges to secure three vital points against Croatia which will keep England in touch with Holland at the top of Group Six. The Three Lions are five points behind in second place although they do have a game in hand and the Dutch still have to come to England in June.
"We have had Croatia watched a few times and we are analysing those games now. As always, we will be fully prepared," said Hope. "It's one of those games that we are expected to win but that doesn't mean that we won't be as vigilant as we always are. We were expected to beat Serbia and we didn't, and hopefully that will be fresh in everyone's mind.
"Everybody will recognise and appreciate that nothing other than three points will be good enough to keep us in contention to top this group."
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