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England Head Coach Hope Powell has named a 22-player squad for the FIFA Women's World Cup Qualifying away fixture against Malta on 20 May at the Centenary Stadium in Ta'Qali.
England currently sit in second place in Group Five, three points behind leaders Spain but having played two games less. England defeated Spain 1-0 thanks to a Katie Chapman goal at Millwall last month.
Hope maintains England's qualification campaign is on track but warns against the complacency of overlooking Malta with the away fixture against Spain looming in June. "We are in a good position right now, we've won all our games and we came through the double header in March with six points so we are on track," she said. "The Spain game was a big result for us, we needed to come away from that with the right result and give us something to build on for the return game in June, but first and foremost, we have to focus on the next game and that is Malta.
"Beating Malta is crucial for us and we will take nothing for granted. We are expected to win but that doesn't mean we already have, we have to keep our focus and ensure we pick up maximum points against Malta, they see us as a team to beat and they will want to put a good performance in front of the home crowd. They really have nothing to lose in this game and they may expect to be beaten, but that mentality sometimes makes a team a more dangerous opponent."
Hope believes her squad have to prepare for the hot conditions in Malta and says the biggest challenge could come in the form of playing on an artificial surface. "I don't think it will be easy, away games never are, it will be hot in May over in Malta and the biggest challenge we may face will be playing on a rubber desso pitch out there, it's very different and will take some getting used to. We are training on the pitch almost every day to combat this and we will just have to ensure the players understand the surface and deal with it appropriately."
Sophie Bradley wins her first call up with the senior squad, coming in for the injured Sue Smith and Karen Carney returns from a knee injury to replace Danielle Buet. Hope sees the introduction of Bradley as a good sign of the young talent earning call ups into the senior squad over the past year.
"It's great to see some of the younger players stepping up to the senior squad. Ellen White and Claire Raffery came into the squad for the double header in March and both players did really well. Dunia Susi has also been involved in the last few squads and performed well for us while Jess Clarke has been with us for some time now. Sophie Bradley has had a very good season with Leeds Carnegie and it's a good time to give her a taster of international experience.
"Having Karen back is a also great addition to any squad, she is back playing with her club in the US and the knee has coped well, the main thing is getting her back with the squad and training with the players, we are pleased with her recovery so far."
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