Houghton and Williams lifted by Cyprus Cup benefits

Wednesday 04 Mar 2015
Steph Houghton was named England captain in April 2014

Steph Houghton and Fara Williams believe they can board the plane home from Cyprus next week ready to take on the world in Canada.

By then, the England Women’s squad will have spent two weeks together, played four games, and according to the two stalwarts, will be tighter knit and better prepared for this summer’s World Cup.

Mark Sampson’s squad are currently in Larnaca, preparing for their first match of the Cyprus Cup, an annual friendly tournament in which England have become regulars.

England v Finland

The Cyprus Cup
12.30pm GMT, Wednesday 4 March
Larnaca, Cyprus

They face Finland on Wednesday, then take on Australia and Holland before one final match against one of South Korea, Canada, Scotland or Italy.

And Williams believes winning matches in this tournament can only help the team in terms of confidence.

She told FATV: "It’s important to get that winning mentality. Wins build confidence and you need players feeling confident going into major tournaments.

"There are good teams here and they will provide good tests for us.

"Confidence going into major [tournaments] is what you want. If we can come here and win the Cyprus Cup it certainly helps us moving forward to the World Cup."

Improving team unity is another key advantage of this tournament. The squad will be together for 15 days in total, which is roughly double the amount of time they would spend together for a qualifying match or a one-off friendly.

And England captain Houghton says the extended time together is crucial for team bonding.

She added: "We don’t get many opportunities to spend more than one week together, so the Cyprus Cup is the perfect opportunity for us to get some decent training sessions under our belts [and] spend a lot of time with each other.

"It’s a good opportunity for us to play four or five games and try and bond together as a squad.

"It’s hard being away from home, from your friends and family, and everyday life, but we all have one goal and that’s to do the best that we can in the World Cup, and we need to get used to being away for long periods of time.

"It’s [a tournament] that we look forward to, in terms of the number of games that we play."

Williams, capped a record 134 times and a veteran of England’s previous six Cyprus Cup campaigns, concurs.

She said: "You spend so much time in your club environment. You’re really familiar with what your team-mates like and don’t like. At international [level] it can become a little bit more difficult because you’re not together as regularly.

"But camps like this where you’re together for two weeks, to get that bond with players that you can rely on.

"It’s great to have some bonding sessions and really pull together and get closer.

"A World Cup is a long time [to spend together]. A World Cup can be four or five weeks. We’re here for two weeks, so it certainly helps us as we build to that.”

Getting match practice is another key facet of the tournament. Most of Sampson’s squad are still in pre-season with their club sides and will use England’s four matches to help them get up to speed ahead of the new season.

But the Cyprus Cup also allows Sampson more time to work with his players and to tinker with personnel and tactics if he needs to.

Fara Williams

With 37 goals, Fara Williams is the top scorer in the current England squad

Williams said: "It’s an opportunity for Mark to pick a team or pick players that fit certain games. We’ve got three different games in the group where three different tests will be provided for us.

"We are coming off the back of two defeats, but a good performance against [USA]. Hopefully we’ll get the performances and results here in Cyprus.

"We’re in a good place. We know what’s expected of us and we know where we want to go."

Houghton added: "As a squad, we are really happy with the work that we’ve done over the last year and with the qualifiers and the friendlies that we’ve played.

"We’ve got a lot of hard work to do but we are going in the right direction."

England’s World Cup campaign gets underway against France in Moncton on Tuesday 9 June. They then face Mexico on 13 June and round off their Group F campaign against Colombia in Montreal on 17 June.

By Glenn Lavery in Larnaca, Cyprus