England are mentally prepared to win their first Women’s World Cup knockout game, reckons head coach Mark Sampson. England have never made it past the quarter-finals but with the tournament now expanded to 24 teams, they face Norway in the last 16. “The staff have worked really hard to make sure this group are the most together unit in the tournament and be in a position to sense the pressure,” Sampson said. And the 32-year-old added: “Now the big challenge is – can we make history?
“We want to progress in this tournament, we’re ambitious and we’re building momentum, but there are tough challenges ahead. ”
Sampson leads his side into their last-16 tie in Ottawa on Monday having qualified second behind France in Group F. After losing to the side ranked third in the world, England recovered with consecutive 2-1 victories over Mexico and Colombia. The Welshman, who has used all 20 outfield players so far, introduced Jodie Taylor for the final nine minutes against Colombia after she had knee surgery eight weeks ago. However, Taylor and Jordan Nobbs, who also featured against Colombia after returning from a hamstring problem, both missed England’s final training session on Sunday. England now face a team that are ranked 11th, six places below them, but who drew 1-1 with two time-champions Germany in the group stages. England were beaten 3-0 by the world’s number one team at Wembley last November. Sampson’s team also drew 1-1 in a friendly with Norway in January 2014, which was his first game in charge. “It feels about 35 years ago,” the England boss joked. Norway’s veteran coach Even Pellerud, 61, guided the team to their sole World Cup triumph in 1995. And they are unbeaten so far in this World Cup, having enjoyed comfortable wins over debutants Thailand and Ivory Coast. Sampson says he has been speaking to his senior players in the squad after several of them were knocked out at the last-eight stage of the 2007 and 2011 World Cups. Four years ago in Germany, France beat England on penalties in their quarter-final having drawn 1-1 after extra-time. Step 3 next, you’re going to need to carry on the installation process wikipedia page reference on your 3ds by this time installing input redirection. But full-back Alex Scott said that England had been practising spot-kicks since they started their training camp at St George’s Park on 12 May. And Sampson said he knew who would be taking penalties should the game go that far. “I’ve been very successful over the course of my career with penalties as a coach,” he said. “We like to work in a way where the staff will dictate which players take them, and in relation to what order they take them. We’ve assessed their techniques, their character and their personalities. “I will take responsibility deciding which players take them and they will have my full backing to go and do their best. ”
The England boss also believes winning the Cyprus Cup last March and the Germany defeat have added to his team’s mental strength. “We’ve always made it very clear to the team that if we want a realistic chance of winning this tournament we had to win the Cyprus Cup,” he said. “The players had to perform under pressure, even though it was a bit behind closed doors and there wasn’t the same media spotlight, or supporters. “We have played in front of 50,000 at Wembley and learned the lessons from that, so I feel the team is prepared for the challenge they are going to face now. ”
Sampson said he would strike a careful balance between attack and defence against Norway, having seen his team produce their most fluid performance in their last group game against Colombia. “Norway are really well organised, fit, strong, determined, and if they can’t find a way on the floor they’ll put the ball in the air,” Sampson said. “We’ll have to manage that threat, but we’ve got good experience. [Centre-backs] Steph Houghton, Laura Bassett and Casey Stoney have probably headed more balls in the last two games than they have all season. “.