Sampson: Lionesses to draw confidence from France draw

Saturday 22 Oct 2016
Mark Sampson has won 27 of his 43 matches as England head coach

England can take a lot of belief from their hard-fought 0-0 draw with France, said head coach Mark Sampson.

The Lionesses battled to keep Les Bleues, the third best side in the world, at bay and gradually grew into the game themselves.

England substitute Toni Duggan thought she had won the game for the hosts in added time, only for the referee to, incorrectly, adjudge the ball to have gone out of play before the Man City striker assumed control.

England 0-0 France

A Women's International
Friday 21 October 2016
Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster

But Sampson, who guided England to the Euro 2017 finals, believes his side are rapidly closing the gap on the world’s top teams.

He said: “It was a good England performance.

“We wanted to win but we are preparing for a tournament. We played that game as if it was a tournament match and I feel that if it had have gone to extra-time, like it would have done in a tournament, there would have been only one winner, England.

“We’ll take some learnings from it and a lot of belief as well. That’s the first time we have limited France to so few chances, and by the end of the game been the better team.

“The team are full of belief now. They genuinely believe they can win these games and the way they managed the opponent was exceptional.”

He added: “You can only test yourselves against the best. That’s how you find out how good you are. And I think we definitely raised the bar.

“We’ve showed that we are really hard to score against but we need to score more goals against these sorts of teams. It’s absolutely coming.”

Sampson praised England’s defensive solidity in restricting France to very few clear-cut chances, but admitted his charges might have done a bit better in possession.

He said: “We grew into the game and we managed the spaces really well defensively, certainly in the first half. All their good play was in front of us.

“To get through 90 minutes against a very good French side without your goalkeeper having to dive [to make a save] you know that’s a very, very good defensive performance.

“But we need to improve with the ball. We had so many moments on the counter-attack where we picked the wrong pass and lacked a bit of composure.

“But as the confidence grew that got better, we saw that with the chances we created.”

England’s Euro 2017 preparations continue apace. Next up is a match against Spain in Guadalajara on Tuesday.

The Lionesses will be among the top seeds for the finals draw, which takes place in Rotterdam on Tuesday 8 November.

By Glenn Lavery