WEARSIDERS Jill Scott and Steph Houghton are in the latest England squad as the countdown to this year’s World Cup finals continues.
The two midfielders, who started their careers with Sunderland WFC, will press their claims at the Cyprus Cup next month.
With the World Cup in Germany just over four months away, this tournament will carry greater significance than in previous years for manager Hope Powell.
England will take on Italy (March 2), Scotland (March 4) and Canada (March 7) before one final match on March 9, against any one of the eight other nations, depending on the final group standings.
“The Cyprus Cup is important for us because, although playing one-off games is great, it’s important players understand the demands of tournament play, especially when you’re in a World Cup year,” said Powell.
“It’s great preparation because we are playing teams we don’t normally play and we will be facing a non-European side in Canada, so it’s good to be able to get that exposure. It will be challenging, but necessary.”
Scott, 24, who plays her club football with Everton, is an established member of the senior England squad, having played in the last World Cup in China four years ago and the European Championships, which were held in Finland in 2009.
England reached the quarter-finals in the last World Cup, losing to the United States and reached the final of the Euros, only to lose 6-2 to the dominant German side.
Houghton, 22, pictured left, will be out to make up for lost time after suffering injury agony in her short career.
The Arsenal player missed the last World Cup after breaking a leg, then missed Euro 2009 with a damaged cruciate ligament.
England have been drawn in Group B for the World Cup, alongside Japan, Mexico and New Zealand.
England squad: Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Sky Blue), Siobhan Chamberlain (Bristol Academy). Defenders: Sophie Bradley (Lincoln Ladies), Lindsay Johnson (Everton), Alex Scott (Boston Breakers), Casey Stoney (Chelsea), Dunia Susi (Birmingham City), Rachel Unitt ( Everton/Leeds City Vixens), Faye White (Arsenal). Midfielders: Anita Asante (Sky Blue), Laura Bassett (Birmingham City), Jess Clarke (Lincoln Ladies), Steph Houghton (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Everton), Sue Smith (Lincoln Ladies), Fara Williams (Everton), Rachel Yankey (Arsenal). Forwards: Eniola Aluko (Sky Blue), Kelly Smith (Boston Breakers), Ellen White (Arsenal).