Sampson: Stick with us

Published: Wednesday 10th June 2015 by The News Editor

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England Women boss Mark Sampson has urged floating fans of his team to “stick with us” after their World Cup mission began with defeat to France.

His pre-tournament target was for England to reach at least the semi-finals, and that will not have changed after the 1-0 setback in Moncton on Tuesday, where Eugenie Le Sommer’s excellent first-half strike proved decisive.

There were positive signs, particularly late on as England pushed for an equaliser against a weary French team.

But Sampson is aware that interest at home depends on results, and losses of any kind could see audiences dwindling for the Lionesses’ matches.

Saturday’s game against Mexico is important for England’s hopes of progressing, and it promises to be a more attack-minded line-up that goes out to tackle a team ranked 25th in the world.

England stand sixth in the FIFA rankings, three places behind France, and Sampson is confident there are good times ahead.

“If people are looking to see a group of players willing to work hard, put their bodies on the line, stick to a game plan and stick together, then for me they’ve got good value for money,” Sampson said.

“They’ve got to understand the level of competition we’re in.

“What I would suggest is: stick with us. Watch the Mexico game and let’s see which England comes out then.”

Asked if England would be more ambitious, Sampson added: “Wait and see.”

They are bound to be though, with England set to abandon the 4-5-1 formation that at times frustrated France but also left Eni Aluko invariably isolated in attack.

Fran Kirby came off the bench for the last 20 minutes against France and is a strong contender to start against Mexico, judging by Sampson’s verdict that the 21-year-old Reading striker will be “a big player” for England during the tournament.

The homework for Mexico was done before England flew out to Canada for the tournament, and Sampson vowed: ” We’ll be prepared as we’ve ever been. I could tell the players exactly how we’re going to play.”

Should England beat Mexico and then Colombia next Wednesday, they would be certain of a place in the last 16.

Sampson’s positivity at his first major tournament as a head coach reflects his belief in his players, and he is certain England can claim a major scalp the next time they come across one of the major nations.

“When we take on these big guns again we’ll find a way to win,” he said.

“We’re excited about the next performance. We want to get ourselves to the next level.”

A 1-1 draw between Mexico and Colombia followed England’s match at the same stadium, and meant the Lionesses stood at the foot of the group after the first round of games.

However, the draw may prove a result that favours England in the long term, with Mexico and Colombia both likely to lose against France, in which case Sampson’s team would be firmly in charge of their own destiny.

Published: Wednesday 10th June 2015 by The News Editor

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