Euro 2017: England ready for ‘massive’ Netherlands semi-final test
Demi Stokes arrived in Holland not knowing if she would get a game at Euro 2017, but the Manchester City left-back has become a key component in an England side now tipped to become European champions.
The 25-year-old has started three of England’s four games, only missing their final group game against Portugal, and is yet to concede – but that will count for little if they can’t see off the hosts in an eagerly-anticipated semi-final on Thursday.
After six-time defending champions Germany fell in the quarter-finals, this Lionesses side are the hot favourites to become the first senior England team to win a major tournament since 1966 – and Stokes insists they thrive under pressure and can silence the sell-out crowd in Enschede.
The former Sunderland left-back narrowly missed out on the 2015 World Cup, where England finished third, so is determined to seize the moment and make 2017 a year to remember.
“I am loving it, it is my first major tournament and coming into it I did not know what to expect,” she said.
“I did not know if I was going to play but I think regardless of the situation you have got to enjoy it.
“These do not come around very often and you don’t know when your last one will be so you have to enjoy the journey.
“We are very excited to face Holland, it is a big game for them as the host nation so they are going to have a big crowd – but we thrive under pressure, I think we have shown that.
“I think that is what we have done and it has worked, everyone is on the same page, everyone knows what each other needs and it has helped. That is why we are doing so well.
“It would be amazing to win it, and for me personally to do that would be amazing. It is not just about us now, it is all for the future.
“We do want to inspire young girls and boys, they might benefit from it in a few years’ time more than us so it is massive for the game. We will keep pushing to get better.”
England manager Mark Sampson has some major decisions to make ahead of the game, with goalkeeper Karen Bardsley ruled out for the rest of the tournament with a fractured leg suffered in the 1-0 quarter-final win against France.
Liverpool’s Siobhan Chamberlain is expected to take the gloves, while Fara Williams and Jo Potter are fighting to replace midfielder Jill Scott – who is suspended after picking up her second yellow card of the tournament in Deventer.
“We are devastated for them, we would love for them to play a part for us but they are not. Away from the field they have a job to support the group now,” Sampson said.
“But we will now bring in some top talent, we have a lot of options to potentially change tactically and evolve in the way we play.”
VIDEO: Interview with Demi Stokes, Mark Sampson and Fran Kirby ahead of Netherlands semi-final
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