Hope Powell has England fitness concerns ahead of World Cup

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport

England women's coach Hope Powell has admitted her squad is entering "unknown territory" with regard to their fitness levels at the World Cup.

All but five of Powell's 21-strong squad play in the newly-formed Women's Super Leagueexternal-link (WSL).

They have played only seven fixtures prior to the World Cup after the new league was deferred for a year.

"I'm hoping it's a good thing that they are fresh," she told BBC Sport. "This is the first time we've tested this."

The WSL started in April and is running over the summer with a break for the World Cup in Germany, which is due to begin on 26 June.

The £3m venture was delayed by a year because of cost-cutting by the Football Associationexternal-link and players for the eight teams involved endured a 12-month wait between the end of the 2009/10 winter Premier League season and the start of the WSL.

While the WSL's creation has been hailed by some, including Powell, as a positive move to promote higher standards, it also means that England's players have been involved in fewer games than if they had finished a demanding winter season.

That may turn out to be a benefit for England, but Powell said she would rather have had a full WSL season completed so she could analyse players' fitness levels.

"In my opinion it would have been better if the Super League started when it was originally supposed to, so we could test what [fitness] would have been like at this point in the summer, so this is unknown territory for us," Powell added.

"The plan is that they will be fresh and better set for it.

"The men's team and us have had complaints in the past because tournaments are at the back end of a very long season if you play a winter league. It's no different.

"You go into a tournament a little bit jaded because you have had nine months of football.

"Usually the players have the summer off [after a winter season], but when there is a tournament they are playing football again and by the way it's at a higher level. So it's tough.

"This tournament will be interesting and it will be a new experience, but it's all good."

England face Mexico in their first World Cup game in Germany on 27 June, with spirits high after recent wins over the world's number one team, the United States, and Sweden.

They have had to contend with injury worries to captain Faye White and star midfielder Fara Williams but both joined in training this week as the squad finalised their preparations before travelling to the tournament on Sunday.

Williams admitted it was a relief to be picked in the squad, while White said that she dreaded the worst when she hurt herself.

"When I first did it, I feared that I might not make the squad when they were telling me what it might be," White told BBC Sport. "Waiting to hear what the results are you always have that gut feeling, but you have to stay positive and that what I've certainly tried to do.

"Once the knee specialist gave me the green light and said 'I think you will be alright' then obviously you work as hard as you can to make sure you are.

"This week the intensity in training every day and next week will be really good and will push me on even more and then it will be up to Hope to decide [if I am picked].

"But we'll have good games within our camp and a few friendlies out in Germany, so we will have to wait and see."

Top Stories