Houghton wary of Japan threat

Published: Sunday 28th June 2015 by The News Editor

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Skipper Steph Houghton has warned England they will have to defy the odds once again if they are to edge past reigning champions Japan and reach the World Cup final.

Mark Sampson’s side dumped hosts Canada out of the tournament with a gritty 2-1 quarter-final victory at the BC Place Stadium in Vancouver to set up a last four showdown with the Japanese on Wednesday.

But while confidence is soaring within the England camp, Houghton knows they will have to be at their very best if they are to keep alive their hopes of glory.

The 27-year-old Manchester City defender told www.thefa.com: “We know it’s going to be a massive game on Wednesday. We’ve got to respect them. They are world champions for a reason.

“Now it’s all about recovering and focusing on trying our best to get into a final.”

Houghton and her team-mates earned their crack at the holders after establishing a quick-fire two-goal lead and then defending it tigerishly as Canada, coached by Englishman John Herdman, launched a concerted fightback.

Jodie Taylor’s 11th-minute strike got them off to the perfect start, and when Lucy Bronze doubled their advantage just three minutes later, they were in dreamland.

However, Canada captain Christine Sinclair reduced the deficit three minutes before the break, setting up a tense second half during which England had to endure serious pressure to hang on to their lead.

For Casey Stoney, who came off the bench to help shore up the defence, it proved the highlight of her lengthy career to date.

The 33-year-old Arsenal defender said: “I never had any seed of doubt. I knew this team was going to win today. We have 23 fantastic players here. We are stronger than we have ever been.

“I was just thankful to be on the pitch. Even if I hadn’t have got on the pitch, this is a real squad effort.

“It’s taken all of us to get here. I’m just so thankful and so proud of these girls for getting us over the line. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever felt in my career. Incredible.”

Despite securing a famous win, Stoney admitted England were not at their best against Canada, but paid tribute to the resilience and determination they showed to get themselves over the line.

She said: “It was a tough game. Canada fought to the wire. They gave us a tough game. For us, it probably wasn’t the best performance, but we did exactly what we wanted.

“Two goals in the bag early settled a lot of nerves. We conceded a poor goal, but holding that scoreline until the last minute is credit to everyone.”

Published: Sunday 28th June 2015 by The News Editor

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