‘Achieving, not just deserving’ is the name of the game for England when they face the world’s best over the next two weeks, Mark Sampson tells TONY LEIGHTON…
England head coach Mark Sampson will be urging his team to “turn performances into results” when they take on the world’s top three women’s football nations at the She Believes Cup in America next week.
The USA, Germany and France – respectively first, second and third in Fifa’s world rankings – will provide Sampson’s side with the sternest of tests as they step up their preparations for the summer’s European Championship finals.
England came back from last year’s She Believes Cup with just one point (a draw with France) against the same set of opponents. Sampson believes they deserved more – but says that achieving, not just deserving, has to be this year’s aim.
“We’re due a bit of luck after last year,” he reckoned ahead of the squad’s flight to Philadelphia, where they will meet France on Wednesday before facing America in New Jersey on Saturday and Germany in Washington on Tuesday week.
“We had a clear penalty that wasn’t given before America got the only goal of our first game,” added the coach, “ and then we got hit with a bad penalty call in our own box against Germany (a 2-1 defeat).
“In the goalless draw against France we were highly competitive and felt we were the dominant team in the closing stages – we could have walked away from that tournament with seven points instead of one.
“This time we want to make sure that the performance levels are as high or higher than last year, because I think we are certainly a better team now. We have to turn performances into results, that’s the challenge for us.
“The players feel they’re now genuinely ready to compete with these teams and I’m sure that if you spoke to the USA, Germany and France coaches they’d all turn round and say England are a major threat now.
“But we don’t want to be coming off the pitch thinking, ‘we’ve given them a game but we’ve come up just short again’. We have to make sure that when we’re producing consistent, solid performances, we also find a way to win.”
Sampson after England’s 0-0 draw v Sweden, in January. (FA via Getty)
A winning performance in America could pave the way for a European Championship triumph in the Netherlands, says Sampson, who – after guiding his team to a 2015 World Cup bronze – has set his sights on Euro gold.
“A few months before the World Cup we won the Cyprus Cup,” he recalled, “and that was a big moment for us. It wasn’t just that we’d won a tournament, it was what we’d shown – in the final (a 1-0 win against Canada) in particular.
“Our team showed that in a big, important game they can manage it well and find a way to win – and if we can do that over the course of this She Believes Cup it would give us a massive boost ahead of the European Championships.
“We would know we’ve got it in our locker come the summer. We’ll be ready anyway, but what a statement of intent it would be if we can go out and win the She Believes Cup in the lead up to the Euros.”
Sampson’s 23-player squad for the She Believes Cup shows no surprises and suggests that, as he steps into his fourth year as head coach, he has firmly in mind the group he will take to the Netherlands to kick off the Euro finals in July.
“We’ve got three years of evidence which we’re constantly working through and adding to every day,” he said, “to ensure that when we make that final call for the Euros we pick the players that are going to help us win there.”
ENGLAND SQUAD for She Believes Cup:
Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Mary Earps (Reading).
Defenders: Laura Bassett (Notts County), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Jo Potter (Notts County), Alex Scott (Arsenal), Casey Stoney (Liverpool), Demi Stokes (Manchester City).
Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Jade Moore (Notts County), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Arsenal)
Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Toni Duggan (Manchester City), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Arsenal), Rachel Williams (Notts County), Ellen White (Birmingham City).
What is SheBelieves?
Conceived and developed by the U.S. Women’s National Team players, SheBelieves is a movement to inspire young girls and women and encourage them to accomplish their goals and dreams, athletic or otherwise. The campaign was originally launched in the run-up to the 2015 Women’s World Cup but has since evolved and grown into a special bond between the team and its fans, taking its powerful message of empowerment and that of believing in yourself into communities across the nation.