Sampson already knows what England need to do at Euros

Tuesday 20 Sep 2016
Mark Sampson has guided England to the Euro 2017 finals

After watching his side end their Euro 2017 qualifying campaign with a 2-0 win in Belgium, Mark Sampson said he already knows what England need to do to succeed in Netherlands next year.

Second-half goals by Nikita Parris and Karen Carney secured top spot in Group 7 and ensured the Lionesses’ ended a sixth consecutive qualifying campaign unbeaten.

They won seven and drew one of their eight matches, scoring 32 times and conceding just once.

Belgium 0-2 England

UEFA Women's Euro 2017
Group 7 qualifier
Tuesday 20 September
Den Dreef, Leuven, Belgium

And Sampson has already put plans in place for next summer’s main event.

He said: “It’s going to be a very, very difficult tournament and we’re going to have be a team that can show many different sides.

“We will have to compete physically and be organised defensively. And we have got to get fitter.

“That’s the big shift. We’ve set a really strong pace in terms of the fitness levels. We’ve got to be the fittest England team ever going into this tournament.

“We’ve set the bar high and we will work them hard.”

England showed signs of already-improving fitness levels by getting stronger as the match in Leuven progressed.

They were unable to find a breakthrough in the opening 45 minutes but regrouped at half-time and stamped their authority on the game after the interval.

Parris headed home a Carney cross in the 65th minute before the provider turned goalscorer with just five minutes to go, calmly slotting home after being found by stand-out substitute Jade Moore.

Nikita Parris celebrates her goal with Jill Scott

Nikita Parris celebrates her goal with Jill Scott

Sampson said: “[Belgium] caused us some problems with their direct play but I thought in the second half we were a different team.

“We found the right shape and balance to our play. We found the right pockets [of space] with Carney and I thought we won very comfortably in the end against a very good opponent.

“It was a much-improved second-half performance but I’m pleased with the resilience we showed in the first half.

“It was a great experience in terms of some learning, a clean sheet and two good goals from open play, which is important.”

He continued: “I think this Belgium team can cause a lot of teams difficulty in the summer.

“We could look back next summer and realise this was a really good England result. Belgium beat Norway not so long ago and beat Russia 5-0 so it was a good result for us.”

Sampson went on to praise Chelsea defender Millie Bright, who came off the bench in the final minute to make her England debut, and goalscorer Parris.

He added: “Congratulations to Millie. She has really earned that cap. We’re big on not giving ‘gesture’ caps.

“It was important for Millie to come on and give us some physical presence. We knew we’d have to defend some set pieces in the last few minutes and she won some important headers.

“Parris had a good game tonight. It was a first international game for her against a big opponent, off the back of a difficult Estonia game where she missed some chances. But she got her goal and I’m really pleased for her.

“I’m really pleased the players are starting to give me something to think about. I hope I get more and more [selection] problems if I’m honest.”

The Lionesses’ will begin their Euro 2017 preparations in earnest when they host France at Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat Stadium on Friday 21 October.

Tickets are proced £7.50 for adults and £3.50 for concessions and can be bought from the Doncaster Rovers website.

By Glenn Lavery in Belgium