Euro 2017: Mark Sampson and Steph Houghton excited for Spain test
Lucy Bronze delivered a hammer blow to the rest of Euro 2017, stating England are only going to get better ahead of their clash with Spain on Sunday.
Mark Sampson’s side vindicated their status as one of the pre-tournament favourites with a 6-0 thrashing of bitter rivals Scotland in their curtain-raiser on Wednesday – and now Spain are in their sights.
La Roja are England’s toughest opponents in an otherwise comfortable Group D – and the Lionesses have a score to settle after losing at the same stage to Jorge Vilda’s side four years ago, as they crashed out early.
That was the catalyst for change, with long-term coach Hope Powell replaced by Sampson – who steered them to third place at the 2015 World Cup.
Four years on, and England are eight places ahead of Spain in the latest world rankings, making them the favourites to win and clinch a quarter-final spot a game early.
“We don’t want to peak too early and put all our cards on the table. We have a lot more to offer,” Manchester City defender Bronze said.
“I think our targets and goals stay the same. I think the Scotland result was one we were expecting, but we did not know what they were going to come out like.
“But we knew how we had prepared, so the result did not shock us. It was a great result, but I don’t think we celebrated too much because it was a result we knew we were capable of.
“At the same time, Mark has said it is a tournament we are really going for. We really want to get to that final.
“We have games to come and Spain is first and they will be the toughest opposition in the group.
“Maybe from the outside looking in, everyone else maybe realised that we are where we say we want to be.”
Spain opened their campaign with a 2-0 win against rivals Portugal, and are likely to emerge from Group D as the second side to qualify for the quarter-finals along with England.
They have big weapons all over the pitch, with former Arsenal midfielder Vicky Losada likely to pull the strings in midfield and striker Jennifer Hermoso – who scored in that game four years ago.
But boss Sampson is confident England can maintain their momentum and see them off in style.
“It is a Spanish team that has not done so well against some of the bigger teams, it has been four years since they have beaten us, France, Germany or USA,” he said.
“Spain are a team who want to control the rhythm and control the tempo, want to play the game in their own unique way. But so do we.”
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