Sampson hails England determination

Published: Tuesday 23rd June 2015 by The News Editor

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England manager Mark Sampson believes his team produced the perfect response to “the doubters and the haters” after powering through to the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals.

Right-back Lucy Bronze hit a powerful 20-yard winner as England beat Norway 2-1 in Ottawa, teeing up a shot at tournament hosts Canada on Saturday night.

Sampson feels women’s football has been treated with derision in England at times, so for his Lionesses to produce a gutsy performance that showed they have the determination to reach the top was immensely satisfying.

“The women’s football community has taken some flak,” said Sampson. “We’ve had to go through some tough times, we’ve had a lot of doubters and a lot of haters in the past, but we’ve stayed on task and we’ve stuck together.

“This team is determined to keep inspiring the next generation.”

England must forget about their May friendly defeat to Canada ahead of the Vancouver clash. Sampson has written it off already, as England had only landed in Canada four days previously, had barely trained and were acclimatising to conditions.

He prefers to focus on the two most recent competitive matches that the teams have contested, both of which came at the Cyprus Cup. England won 2-0 in the group stage in 2014 and 1-0 in this year’s final, with Lianne Sanderson scoring all three of the goals, meaning she will inevitably come into contention to start this weekend.

“We haven’t forgotten the two times we’ve got the better of Canada in the last 18 months. They were important games,” Sampson said in a press conference.

“We stated publicly that the Cyprus Cup was a tournament we had to win. If we didn’t win that tournament (this year) we wouldn’t have had the belief and the confidence to come here with the belief that we could win this tournament.

“That was a big game for us. We managed it well, we won it.”

While England’s manager is a Welshman, Canada are bossed by an Englishman in 39-year-old County Durham exile John Herdman.

Herdman was linked with the England job when Hope Powell was sacked after Euro 2013, but was determined to lead hosts Canada into this World Cup. His stated long-term goal is to manage Newcastle, meaning that like Sampson he is a hugely ambitious young coach.

Sampson knows Canada will have great backing on Saturday.

“We’re going to face a hugely partisan crowd and an excellent team – I’ve got to give credit to John for the way he organises them,” Sampson said.

“But it’s an exciting challenge for us.

“We’ll enjoy a couple of days off but then it’ll be back to business, heads down ready for a big quarter-final, and we’re determined to keep this journey going.”

Match-winner Bronze might not have been available to Sampson had she accepted her first invitation to play international football, which came from Portugal.

Born Lucia Roberta Tough Bronze in October 1991 to an English mother and father from Portugal, Diane and Joaquim, word later reached the Portuguese football federation that she was a teenage player with a big future.

Bronze, now 23, confirmed she considered the Portuguese offer.

“I did actually. There was an offer when I was 15, 16, the national coach got in touch with my parents about playing,” she told Press Association Sport.

“But I felt that I’d grown up in England, English was my first language, and I had an English passport.

“I could have done that. I always said to my mum that if I got to 24, 25 without playing for England it would be a back-up because to play at international level for anyone is a big deal.

“So if I was never going to be good enough for England I always had that in the back of my head that I could maybe have Portugal.”

Sampson is delighted to have her on board, even if one back-pass against Norway almost landed Bronze and England in big trouble.

The goal made up for the lapse, and Sampson said: ” She gets herself in that part of the pitch enough, it was about time she scored one.”

Published: Tuesday 23rd June 2015 by The News Editor

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