Four years ago, England were in their first FIFA Women's World Cup since 1995 and the quarter-final run was considered a success. Having been runners-up at UEFA Women's EURO 2009 and beaten the United States and Sweden this year, winger Karen Carney knows expectations will be much higher in Germany.
Hope Powell's side begin their Group B campaign against Mexico in Wolfsburg on Monday before taking on New Zealand and Japan – who England pipped to the last eight in 2007 before a 3-0 defeat by the US. Carney, who was only 20 when she played for England at the last World Cup in China, says they are now a far more experienced outfit.
"In China we went into everything blind," Carney told UEFA.com. "You can't buy experience and it does matter. It's good that all the players here, either with the seniors or in the younger age groups, have had that experience. It is definitely different as we know what we are going into."
England maintained their unbeaten qualifying record beginning in 2002 to make it to their second straight World Cup. In their two home friendlies this year they have defeated the US 2-1 and Sweden 2-0 – Carney scoring in the second game for her first goal since the 6-2 EURO final loss to Germany. England had not won against either nation since before Carney's 1987 birth, and she said: "It's really good for our confidence. It shows what we've been doing over the years and we need to continue."
Carney returned to England this year after two seasons with Chicago Red Stars in the US, and has helped her hometown club Birmingham City LFC to a surprise lead halfway through the inaugural FA Women's Super League. "Last year and the year before I was permanently on a plane," the 23-year-old said. "It's been good for me as a person to not have been travelling; some stability, just relaxing and not being jet-lagged and tired, and it being as vicious circle. I'm happy with my decision to come back and not have to travel thousands of miles for a game."
However, the emergence of Ellen White and Jessica Clarke as well as Rachel Yankey's return to form means that Carney did not start either the US or Sweden games. "There's a lot of competition," she said. "I haven't started in a long time so I'm trying to get myself back into the team and other people are trying to creep into the team. Up front anyone could play at any given time and in multiple positions, which is only good for Hope and the squad in general. It's healthy competition and I think everyone's enjoying that."
What Carney is also enjoying is the ever-increasing attention the England team has received ever since her debut just prior to hosting UEFA Women's EURO 2005. "Results have favoured that," she said. "People follow success and like to support success, and we've been successful over the last couple of games. We've raised our profile and perhaps expectations. It's definitely been more media interest and more coverage, which is great and I think we're thriving on that."
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