Sampson: Belgium will be toughest test on road to Euros

Monday 04 Apr 2016
Mark Sampson's side have won two out of two in Euro qualifying

Mark Sampson is preparing his England side for their biggest test on the road to Euro 2017.

The Lionesses will entertain Belgium, ranked 28th in the world, at Rotherham United’s New York Stadium on Friday night.

The ‘Red Flames’ currently top qualifying Group 7 having won two and drawn one of their opening three matches. England are a point further back but with a game in hand.

England v Belgium

UEFA Women’s Euro 2017
Group 7 qualifier
7.55pm, Friday 8 April
New York Stadium, Rotherham United
Tickets priced £5 adults, £2.50 children

And Sampson believes Ives Serneels’ team will be the biggest obstacle to England achieving a place at next summer’s Finals.

He said: "We are prepared for a tough night against a strong Belgium team.

"Don’t be fooled by their world ranking.

"This is a Belgium team who have beaten both Norway and Denmark, and their most recent result was a 5-0 win against a strong Russia team, so they will without doubt provide our biggest challenge on home soil in recent years.

"They are a genuine rival to us achieving our aim of top spot in this group.

"Only a foot-to-the-floor performance will give us the opportunity to compete to win. We are ready for the challenge."

Friday’s match will be the Lionesses’ first since their participation in the inaugural SheBelieves Cup, a friendly tournament in USA, where they took on the top three teams in the world, Germany, France and the host nation.

England were narrowly beaten by both USA and Germany – World Cup and European Championship holders respectively – before they rounded the week off with a 0-0 draw against France.

England Women at St. George

England are ranked fourth in the world, their highest-ever position

Sampson added: "Though we didn’t come back with the cup, this group of players returned with a stronger belief that we are closer than we ever have been to the best teams in the world. Now we have to find a way to get over the line.

"The result is the most important aspect of a football match but when preparing for a major championship we have to also look beyond the results.

"When we look beyond the result of the matches in USA there is clear evidence we are moving positively in the right direction.

"It is an exciting time to be an England player or fan and I can assure everyone the team is fighting hard to be the best we can possibly be."

Tickets are priced £5 for adults and £2.50 for children and can be bought in person at the Rotherham United ticket office.

By Glenn Lavery