New-look Eng­land seek World Cup break­through

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY TOM WIL­LIAMS

With a new coach and a re­vamped squad, Eng­land go into the Women’s World Cup seek­ing to atone for the dis­ap­point­ment of their group-stage exit at the 2013 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship.

Eng­land have reached the quar­ter­fi­nals at the last two World Cups, but they failed to win a sin­gle game at the Euro in Swe­den two years ago, which cost long­stand­ing coach Hope Pow­ell her job.

They breezed through qual­i­fy­ing for the World Cup, but with women’s soc­cer now fully pro­fes­sional in Eng­land fol­low­ing sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment from the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, the pres­sure is on to de­liver.

Welsh­man Samp­son, 32, was ap­pointed in De­cem­ber 2013 and picked up where care­taker manager Brent Hills had left off by over­see­ing a near-flaw­less qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign.

‘The Three Lionesses’ won all 10 of their games to fin­ish top of UEFA qual­i­fy­ing Group 6, scor­ing 52 goals and con­ced­ing just one, in a 2-1 win over Ukraine in Lviv.

Samp­son, who once worked un­der Ever­ton manager Roberto Martinez at Swansea City, fa­vors an ex­pan­sive pass­ing game and has set his team the tar­get of reach­ing the semi­fi­nals for the first time.

He has as­serted his author­ity by sidelin­ing long-serv­ing Ar­se­nal Ladies mid­fielder Rachel Yankey, while all-time lead­ing scorer Kelly Smith an­nounced her in­ter­na­tional re­tire­ment in Fe­bru­ary.

Chelsea mid­fielder Katie Chap­man and Ar­se­nal for­ward Lianne San­der­son have both re­turned to the fold fol­low­ing long in­ter­na­tional ab­sences caused by agree­ments with Pow­ell.

Eight play­ers, mean­while, will be play­ing at a World Cup for the first time — Lucy Bronze, Alex Green­wood, Jade Moore, Jor­dan Nobbs, Jo Pot­ter, Toni Dug­gan, Fran Kirby and Jodie Tay­lor.

With 241 caps be­tween them, Ar­se­nal pair Alex Scott, 30, and Casey Stoney, 33, are the ma­trons of the back four.

Ver­sa­tile de­fender Stoney cap­tained Eng­land be­fore Manch­ester City’s Steph Houghton took over and has be­come a fig­ure­head for the cam­paign to drive ho­mo­pho­bia from the sport af­ter com­ing out as gay last year.

A com­bat­ive hold­ing mid­fielder, 32-year-old Chap­man spent four years in the in­ter­na­tional wilder­ness and can ex­pect a warm wel­come in North Amer­ica fol­low­ing her time with Chicago Red Stars.

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