Mark Sampson: Lionesses are closing in on the elite

Friday 04 Mar 2016
England boss Mark Sampson

Mark Sampson reckons England Women are on the verge of beating the world’s best teams on a consistent basis, despite being defeated in their SheBelieves Cup opener.

The Lionesses were edged 1-0 by 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup winners USA in Tampa, Florida, in the early hours of Friday morning.

The visitors matched their more celebrated opponents for 72 minutes before substitute Crystal Dunn’s sumptuous 20-yard strike gave her side all three points.

USA 1-0 England

The SheBelieves Cup
Friday 4 March
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

And the head coach believes his side, ranked fifth in the world, are getting ever closer to the top three teams in the women's game: USA, Germany and France.

He said: “The players are angry about the result. They felt we should’ve gotten something out of the game.

“It is hard to get over the line against these big teams – we were so, so close. But, once we get over the line once, I think we will really pull away.

“We have to keep fighting, keep working and keep getting better.

“Once we do get over the line that will be a big moment for us and we will do it consistently.”

Sampson continued: “Detail is the difference in these big games.

“We cost ourselves a goal really – we had good possession [but] we just didn’t make sure we were concentrated defensively. We got carried away a bit.

“We will learn from that and tighten up a little bit, and make sure those small details work in our favour next time.

“It took an incredible goal from a US substitute with incredible ability to cost us this game. So we’re disappointed because we really believed we could come in and win.”

USA celebrate Crystal Dunn

USA celebrate Crystal Dunn's thunderous winning goal

Nevertheless, Sampson praised the victors, who have only lost one home match – against China last December – in 12 years.

Sampson said: “Credit to America. They’re world champions and they are world champions for a reason.

“They had 11 world-class players on the pitch and we saw tonight that they can bring 11 world-class players off the bench.

“But there were a lot of positives to take, so we’ll go away and assess the game and make sure the players understand what we did great and what we could do better.”

England’s second SheBelieves Cup match is against Germany in Nashville on Sunday.

Silvia Neid’s side, who England beat last summer to clinch World Cup bronze, defeated France 1-0 in the opening match of the tournament. The two sides then drew 0-0 in a friendly in Duisburg in November.

Sampson added: “I can’t wait to get straight back out there and play Germany.

“We will recover. We’ll travel to Nashville, try and learn our lessons from this match and move on to the next one.

“These players thrive on the challenge of playing the best teams.

“We will go again on Sunday and try and put it right.

“That’s what this team is all about. We get knocked down but we bounce back and go again.”

England take on Germany in Nashville on Sunday 6 March with a kick-off time of 10.45pm GMT. The game will be shown live on the BBC Red Button and via the BBC Sport website, with coverage beginning at 10.30pm GMT.

By Glenn Lavery in Tampa, Florida