Mark Sampson led England to a bronze medal at the World Cup – and now he wants his Lionesses to improve on that historic showing and win gold at Euro 2017.
Sampson has taken his side to Tallinn for their opening European Championship qualifier against Estonia, the lowest ranked side in a group which also comprises Belgium, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
England are ranked fifth in the world, their highest-ever placing, and will be among the favourites to win the tournament, which is being staged in Holland.
Estonia v England
UEFA Women's Euro 2017
5pm BST, Monday 21 September
A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn
Sampson said: “The players want to be better and they want to win the next European Championship – and that has got to be the aim.
“We understand the process we have to go through to give ourselves a chance of being competitive come June 2017.
“It’s the start of a new campaign for us and you are always excited at the start of a new season.
“We’ve got some new players involved with the squad, some young players who will always bring a freshness and an enthusiasm to the group.
“The players are excited to get back on the field, to pull the England jersey on again and build on the performances we left out in Canada.
“Now we can dig in to the detail of how we are going to get to the next level.”
Sampson led his charges to a number of milestones at the World Cup.
They were the first England Women’s team to win a knockout match at a World Cup, the first to reach a semi-final and the first England team at any level to win a World Cup medal since 1966.
The qualifier in Estonia is the Lionesses’ first match since they defeated Germany in the match for third place.
Sampson added: “What’s been great about this camp is that it’s the first time we’ve got together as a group since we landed at Heathrow.
“It has been the first time we have had the chance to share our experiences of the tournament and about how life has changed for the players.
“Since they have been back home they have been recognised on the street a lot more, they are playing in front of bigger crowds and their phones are ringing a lot more, so it has been great to hear those stories.”
However, Sampson realises there is a lot of work to be done between now and the summer of 2017.
England are hot favourites to top Group 7 and the head coach knows he must test his side against some of the world’s top teams to be in with a chance of competing for the European crown.
Their bronze-medal winning performance was their first-ever win over Germany, the reigning Euro champions, in 21 attempts – and England haven’t beaten France since 1972, so they are aware of the quality of opposition they will have to overcome if they are to better their finish at the World Cup.
Sampson said: “They are confident bunch. We’ve got some good characters in this team and the players are looking forward to the next part of our journey.
“We’ve put some brilliant foundations in place – but they are only foundations.
“The overall, long-standing aim of this team is to inspire a nation, and they have made some real progress with that, although we’ve also got a long way to go.”
England’s next home game is against Bosnia & Herzegovina at Bristol City FC on Sunday 29 November.
Tickets are on sale now priced £5 for adults and £2.50 for children. A family ticket (two adults and two children) is available at £10 and group booking discounts apply.
Tickets can be purchased via tickets.bristol-sport.co.uk or by calling 01179 630 600.