Hope Powell believes England can win Euro 2013 but cited "dangerous" Spain as evidence of the most open tournament she has faced in 15 years as head coach.
England begin their campaign on Friday against the Spanish, whom they beat en route to qualifying for the 2009 European Championship and the 2011 World Cup, with Powell anticipating a tight contest against an improving side that the Chelsea striker Eniola Aluko compared in style to their all-conquering male counterparts. The head coach has resisted bold predictions in the build-up to Sweden but is confident England can profit from a tournament that has been dominated by Germany.
"We've got as good a chance as anybody of winning the tournament," said Powell. "But I'm not going to jump the gun. We have a tough group and we just have to get out of the group first. It's going to be a tough tournament. Who's going to win it? Of course we'd like England to win it but any one of the teams can.
"People might ask 'How can you say that?' after Sweden beat us 4-1 [in a friendly] but then Sweden drew 1-1 with Denmark in their opening game and I thought Denmark were the better team. France lost to Australia last week. It's a real compliment to women's football that this tournament isn't predictable. It's more open than ever before."
England will be without Sophie Bradley for their opener after the defender suffered an ankle injury against Sweden but pre-tournament injury worries over Kelly Smith, Karen Carney, Casey Stoney and Steph Houghton have eased. "Kelly played in a behind-closed-doors game the other day and came through OK and everybody is coming through," said the head coach, who believes the emergence of several young players has been key to Spain's development. "Their youth team won the Euros in 2010 and those players have come through, which gives them more depth, a bit like us with the 2009 [Euro Under-19] winners coming to the forefront. That has pushed Spain on and everybody is thinking they have something about them now. They drew with Germany in qualifying too, which was a massive result for them. We know they are very dangerous on the break and we will have to be at our best."
Defeat by Sweden last week ended England's 11-match unbeaten run but "was probably a good thing in a sense", according to Aluko, who explained: "We were able to analyse our game and identify the mistakes that we know we cannot afford to repeat against Spain. Spain are a very technical team. They have a similar style to their men's team in that it is possession-orientated, and a very good forward in Veronica Boquete. They have strong players but possibly their backline can be exploited and us forwards will be looking to do that."
The Chelsea striker scored three goals in England's run to the 2009 Euros final and, the group permitting, believes the current squad can go one better and triumph in Sweden. "It is not too early to talk about winning the tournament," she said. "There would be no point in being here if we didn't want to win the Euros but we know there is a process to that. We can't talk about the final without getting through the group.
"We are focused on Spain, Russia and France and, if we do well against them, we can start talking about beating the other teams in front of us. Certainly, talking holistically, can we get to the final? Absolutely. We got there in 2009. Can we win the tournament? Yes. We have to believe that."
England 4-2-3-1 probable Bardsley; A Scott, Stoney, Bassett, Houghton; J Scott, Asante; Aluko, Williams, Yankey; White