Houghton set for England's biggest-ever match

Tuesday 30 Jun 2015
Steph Houghton celebrates Jodie Taylor's goal against Canada

Steph Houghton is relishing leading out the England Women’s team for their biggest-ever match.

Mark Sampson’s side will take on holders Japan in a World Cup semi-final, with live BBC One coverage starting at 11.10pm on Wednesday.

Houghton, 27, said: "We should be really proud of being the first women's team to get to the semi-final.

Japan v England

FIFA Women's World Cup 2015
Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton
Live on BBC One from 11.10pm, Wednesday

"It's the biggest game in English women's football and I can't wait.”

The Lionesses never got beyond the quarter finals in their three previous World Cup appearances, in 1995, 2007 and 2011.

But this year’s squad have bettered those achievements by finishing runners-up in Group F and then defeating Norway and host nation Canada in the knockout stages.

Houghton was a member of the 2011 squad which lost to France on penalties.

She said: "In terms of English football, we have always been known to get to quarter finals and get knocked out so we have taken that off people's backs, we've shown we can get to a semi-final and we can play under pressure.”

England’s overarching aim during their Canada 2015 campaign has been to inspire a nation and get more young girls playing football.

And Houghton, a star of Team GB at the London Olympics, feels privileged to be one of the flag-bearers.


England have reached the World Cup semi-final for the first time

The defender added: "English women's football is getting bigger and bigger each year and we knew the Olympics was a massive moment for us but to go that step further, it's a huge opportunity to try and inspire young girls to play and look at us as heroes.

“That's what drives us on as well, to give them that opportunity to play international football when they are older."

The team have been inundated with messages of support from sportspeople and celebrities – and they even received one from FA President Prince William.

Houghton said: "Everyone is buzzing about England Women and getting to the semi-final.

"We deserve this moment. We have worked so hard to get into this position and we gave everything against Canada. We knew it was massive opportunity.

"To say we are in a semi-final of a World Cup is pretty special.

"We now have two massive games to come and hopefully that ends with a winner's medal but we know we need to be at our best against Japan."

By Glenn Lavery in Edmonton, Canada