Women's World Cup: Powell coy on White inclusion

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport in Leverkusen
Best is yet to come from England - Powell

England coach Hope Powell has refused to be drawn on whether she will recall skipper Faye White for Saturday's World Cup quarter-final against France.

Centre-back White, who has returned from a knee injury, looked short of full fitness in England's first two group games.

And she was replaced by 21-year-old Sophie Bradley for the 2-0 win over Japan, where England kept their first clean sheet of the tournament.

"Everybody's fit to play," Powell said.

"I always put a team out that I think is doing to do the best job and that will be no different on Saturday."

Victory over France, who are playing in their first World Cup quarter-final, would see England reach the last four for the first time.

After topping Group B following a draw with Mexico and victories over New Zealand and Japan, Bradley said England were determined to reach uncharted territory.

The match will be shown live on BBC Two at 1700 BST after the BBC decided to switch the match from the Red Button because of "audience interest".

"We're here for the long run, we aren't happy to settle for the quarter-finals," Bradley told BBC Sport.

"We want to keep progressing. Japan were ranked fourth, France are ranked eighth, so they are higher than us as well, but that doesn't mean anything when you step out on the pitch."

Lincoln Ladies' defender Bradley is making her World Cup debut in Germany and came on as a late substitute to replace White in England's opening games.

But her performance against a skilful Japanese team, when she defended well alongside club team-mate Casey Stoney, has handed Powell a tough choice for the France tie in Leverkusen.

Arsenal skipper White, 33, has been recovering from a knee injury sustained in a Women's Super League match in April.

Fara Williams will also be hoping to win her place back in the centre of midfield, after Anita Asante deputised against Japan match in Augsburg.

Highlights - England beat Japan 2-0 to reach quarter-finals (UK users only)

And there is fierce competition for places among the four forward positions with Eniola Aluko, Karen Carney, Jess Clarke, Rachel Yankey and Ellen White aiming to join Kelly Smith in attack.

Powell said it was not a difficult decision to omit White for a game where England looked impressive, and told BBC Sport: "The players that came in against Japan did a fantastic job so I know there is depth to our squad.

"Faye leads by example. She has had a torrid time in recent years with injuries and she has bounced back and worked extremely hard to put herself in a position to play.

"She is a natural leader and the good thing is we have a few of those. The togetherness of the squad and its ambition was highlighted in the last game, so we just need that to continue."

Games between England and France have been tight in recent years, and both Powell and French coach Bruno Bini said their teams have been practising penalties.

They shared a 2-2 draw in a Cyprus Cup friendly in 2009, and the two teams also drew twice in qualifying for the 2007 World Cup, although away goals enabled Powell's team to progress to the tournament in China.

Since then Bini has added several young players to the side, and they have looked a strong outfit so far at the World Cup, finishing second behind Germany in Group A.

They will, though, be without first-choice keeper Berangere Sapowicz, who was sent off in the final group game defeat by the hosts.

"We've played well in all three group games but not quite to our best yet so hopefully we can get better," Powell added.

"France are a very technical side and very aggressive in their play. They have some good little youngsters who have come through their squad from the Under-19s, where they are 2009 European champions, so it will be a very tough contest.

"Both teams know what is at stake. They have some talented players in their squad but so do we."