Mark Sampson: England Women's coach issues World Cup challenge

England Women head coach Mark Sampson
England Women's head coach Mark Sampson issues a clarion call before the World Cup

England Women head coach Mark Sampson challenged his players to "stake a claim" for a World Cup spot after announcing his Cyprus Cup squad.

Sampson named his 23 players on Friday. Chelsea defender Claire Rafferty is the only change to the side beaten 1-0 by the US last week.

"By the end of the Cyprus Cup we will only have two months until we name our final World Cup squad," he said.

"So this is a big opportunity for the players to stake a claim for a spot."

England, who are in Group B of the Cyprus Cup, start their campaign against Finland in Larnaca on 4 March, before facing Australia (6 March) and Holland (9 March) in Nicosia.

Claire Rafferty
Chelsea defender Claire Rafferty, right, has seven caps for England

Last year's runners-up will then play one final game on March 11, against one of the other eight teams in Group A or C, to determine their final standings in the tournament.

Sampson added: "The Cyprus Cup gives us a unique opportunity to simulate tournament football, which is key to our World Cup preparation.

"We will potentially face a variety of opponents from different continents at this tournament, which will be excellent preparation for the type of challenges we face at the World Cup this summer."

The Lionesses will face France (9 June), Mexico (13 June) and Colombia (17 June) in Group F at the World Cup in Canada.

England's squad for the Cyprus Cup

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Arsenal), Carly Telford (Notts County).

Defenders: Laura Bassett (Chelsea), Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), Alex Greenwood (Notts County), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Claire Rafferty (Chelsea), Alex Scott (Arsenal), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Casey Stoney (Arsenal).

Midfielders: Karen Carney (Birmingham City), Katie Chapman (Chelsea), Jade Moore (Birmingham City), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jo Potter (Birmingham City), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Liverpool).

Forwards: Eni Aluko (Chelsea), Jess Clarke (Notts County), Fran Kirby (Reading), Lianne Sanderson (Arsenal), Jodie Taylor (Portland Thorns).

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