Euro 2017: England’s Mark Sampson and Steph Houghton ready for Scotland battle
Karen Bardsley insists the pressure is all on England ahead of their Euro 2017 curtain-raiser against Scotland today – but backs her side to emerge victorious and start their campaign with a bang.
Mark Sampson’s team are one of the overwhelming favourites to become champions in the Netherlands and end England’s 51-year wait for a major senior trophy, after their third-placed finish at the 2015 World Cup.
On paper, they have a kind start – with Scotland preparing for their first ever game in a major competition – but head coach Mark Sampson has been keen to talk up their opponents.
And goalkeeper Bardsley knows they are under the microscope in Utrecht tonight, but expects them to come through and secure their first opening-game win at a major tournament in 12 years.
“The pressure is like a privilege so we know that there is going to be some expectations from what we did at the World Cup but it is nothing we don’t feel ourselves,” she said.
“We are more focused internally. Everything we are doing is in our control, we have our own expectations in what we think should happen.
“I think we have taken a lot from that, we have been preparing for the last two years for this moment since the last World Cup.
“We are really focused on what we can control in the games, and how we can start. We have a bit more experience in big tournaments now so I feel like we are prepared for any event.
“We have been through everything. We know all the emotions, the ups and downs of the World Cup and we are prepared to handle whatever gets thrown at us and we are more than capable of getting started on the right foot.”
England, although clear favourites, cannot afford to be complacent against Scotland, with Manchester City striker Jane Ross and Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert adding plenty of firepower to their ranks.
And skipper Steph Houghton has warned her side that they must be at their best to beat their fiercest rivals.
“It is a massive game, it is probably the biggest fixture I watched when I was younger. There is a real rivalry there and ultimately we just need to go out and play our best if we want to win,” she said.
“I think for me and Mark the belief is that over the two years the girls have massively improved in all areas – not just finding ways to win football matches, but also in our fitness and our mentality and we have won some big matches along the way.
“We won in America 1-0 [in March], and that performance might not have been nice on the eye but for us we did our job, and we stifled them and got the important bit at the right time.
“Nineteen out of the 23 with us today have experienced the World Cup and got a bronze medal around their neck so hopefully we can lean on their experience in the big games, and it does not get any bigger than against Scotland.”
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Video: Press conference with Mark Sampson and Steph Houghton