Mark Sampson, England Women's National Team head coach

Mark Sampson warned his side they must be on full alert to repel Spain’s dark arts

Mark Sampson watched England create magic against Scotland on Wednesday, but warned his side they must be on full alert to repel Spain’s dark arts.

The teams meet in Breda in their second group game of Euro 2017, and victory would secure the Lionesses a quarter-final spot after they thrashed the Scots.

But Sampson is worried Spain will utilise their full armoury of diving, feigning injury and putting pressure on the referee in order to disrupt England’s game and repeat their victory at the same stage four years ago – which helped to dump the Lionesses out.

“We are aware of the Spanish team in terms of both of their qualities and we will have to make sure we are ready for the potential possession game and also those dark arts, which are not the nicest parts,” he said.

“Spain are one of those teams that I think, on one hand, they are a football purists dream but on the other hand they are incredibly frustrating.

“No one would argue that their tippy-tappy football, their possession-based style is pleasing on the eye – if that was the one element of their game you would be happy to watch the team.

“I think why a lot of people find it difficult to fall in love with the Spanish team is because they have the other bit as well, the ill-discipline, the feigning injury, the getting around the referee – all those types of thing.

“[For England] It is about making rational decisions on the field, it can’t be that you react before choosing, it has to be that you choose your reaction.

“When you make a mistake emotionally, you react without thinking. We want to perform emotionally but also have that clarity of thought.

“It is a shame really because I think for all the football purist, they would be the team everyone wants to watch.
“But the reason everyone finds it difficult to get on the bandwagon is the other side of it which can frustrate, not just the opponents, but also the supporters as well.”

Sampson believes Spain only resort to ‘dark arts’ when things don’t go their way and, seeing as England beat them when they met last year, referee Carina Vitulano may need to keep an eagle eye on Jorge Vilda’s team.

Skipper Steph Houghton and midfielder Jill Scott will also need to be vigilant as they carry yellow cards into the contest, and will be ruled out of the final group game against Portugal if they collect another.

But Sampson is adamant they have the squad to deal with any suspensions, even to the captain.

“We are preparing for a long tournament so ideally we don’t want bookings, but you have got to make good decisions,” he said.

“We are focussing on Spain, doing what we need to do to win and if that means Jill and Steph get a booking then so be it, we will deal with it in the next game because we have got such a strong squad.”

SSE is an official partner of the England Women’s team and is proud to be the energy behind women’s football, supporting the game from grassroots through to international level. Follow us at @YourSSE


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