Mark Sampson wants his Lionesses to raise the bar

Tuesday 13 Sep 2016
Mark Sampson has led England to the Euro 2017 finals

After steering England to next summer’s Euro finals, head coach Mark Sampson wants his side to keep raising the bar.

The Lionesses sealed their place at Netherlands 2017 with a 7-0 win in Serbia in June.

They have two qualifiers left, against Estonia in Nottingham on Thursday and away to Belgium five days later.

England v Estonia

UEFA Women's Euro 2017
Group 7 qualifier
7.05pm BST, Thursday 15 September
Meadow Lane, Notts County
Tickets priced £7.50 adults, £3.50 children

And Sampson wants six points to secure top spot in Group 7 and lay the foundations for further improvement between now and next year.

He said: “We want to get two wins to make sure we top the group. We're a top team and we want don't want to be going into the tournament as a runner-up.

“It's important we finish the campaign with quality and get two positive results.

“If we end this campaign with two victories it means that over the course of two years of qualifying campaigns, this team have conceded hardly any goals, scored lots of them and we would have only dropped two points.”

Sampson added: “For us, it’s about the two things we always focus on – performance level and result. We want to win, we want to play better than we did against Serbia and we want to make a big jump as well.

“I was pleased with the Serbia games, and the results, and we had a really good [fitness testing] camp in August. I think we’re ready to raise the bar a little bit. I’m looking forward to these two games to see if we can get the results we want, score goals, not concede any, win and put in some big performances as well.”

England eased to an 8-0 win over Estonia in their opening Euro qualifier last September, with Danielle Carter and Isobel Christiansen grabbing debut goals, the former with a hat-trick.

Carter is one of three young forwards in the England squad for the next two matches, alongside Nikita Parris and Rachel Daly.

Daly scored on her Lionesses debut, at home to Serbia, while Parris bagged two in just her second cap.

And Sampson believes the trio have the ability to make their mark on the squad.

He said: “Rach, Keets and Dan haven’t got many caps between them but they’ve not got a bad goal ratio. They’ve got six goals in just four caps.

“It will be a big challenge for them. It’s important for them to put down a marker, show they are good players and that they are ready to compete at this level.

“All the evidence I’ve seen tells me that they can compete and that they can be really good additions to this group. We’ve seen that in games for both club and country. They’re ambitious, they’re hungry and they want to help us win.”

Sampson also pointed to the strength in depth he can call upon.

He added: “There are a lot of players who are [not in] this camp who are fighting hard to get in it and hopefully they continue to do that. I want to have as many selection nightmares as possible.

“I want to make sure that the players who get selected feel like they have earned their spot. And I want all the players to be aware that they’ve all got someone breathing down their neck.

“We want that competition, we want to keep raising the bar and keep maintaining our standards.”

Tickets for the Estonia match can be bought on the night, priced £7.50 for adults and £3.50 for children.

By Glenn Lavery in Nottingham