In the friendly competition at the Guangzhou Olympic Sports Centre, Hope Powell's side play the hosts tomorrow before tackling the United States on Sunday and world and European champions Germany on Tuesday. It will be tough: Germany have beaten England on all 15 previous occasions they have met, including a 5-1 win last October; England have suffered a succession of defeats by the USA since last overcoming them in 1988; and China have finished in the top two of this event for the last four years, the likes of Norway, Germany and Sweden coming behind them.
Still, England are swiftly emerging as a force, proved by their qualification for the World Cup finals for the first time since 1995, and indeed their invitation to the Four Nations. Everton LFC attacker Jody Handley is aiming to cement her place in the squad with a good performance, and believes that England's hard work under Powell will be rewarded in this week's competition.
"A few years ago we knew we could match some of the top-ranked countries technically, but physically we would start to flag in the final third of a game," Handley said. "Our fitness levels now are getting better all the time, the analysis by the medical team strives to give us every competitive advantage possible and most importantly, the players believe in each other."
Of course, each player has personal reasons to impress in China, with the finals so close, and Handley argues that this will boost the team over the next few days. "No one in the squad feels they have a right to be selected for the World Cup and that just makes the desire even stronger," she said. "We're all fighting for our places, the games in this tournament will be really tough, but if we all perform as we know we're capable, we could send a very strong message to other countries that we won't be at the World Cup to make up the numbers."
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