Hought on: Now we can live with the best!
STEPH HOUGHTON says a ‘massive’ shift in mentality is the key to England’s ability to compete with the best teams in the world. The captain was speaking to Women’s Football Weekly after she and her England team-mates put in a battling display in Duisburg to hold European Champions Germany to a goalless draw on Thursday, thanks to a well organised performance and an in form Karen Bardsley between the posts. Germany were restricted largely to efforts from outside the box, with Lina Magull and Dzsenifer Marozsan the only players to test England from inside the area, while the Lionesses’ Demi Stokes came closest for the visitors, seeing her effort well saved by Laura Benkarth in the German goal.
You have to go back to the first half of the encounter at Wembley this time last year to find the last time the Germans scored past England, making it 255 minutes without conceding when including the 1-0 extra-time win at the World Cup and Thursday’s stalemate.
Defender Houghton, who put in an accomplished display alongside the impressive Gilly Flaherty, said that it was important the win over Germany in Canada wasn't a one off.
“To come here, away from home, and get a drawn and perform the way we did is credit to every individual in this squad," she said.
“It was important that the World Cup wasn’t a one off because we want to be competing with these teams, and I think we did that tonight.”
Germany Head Coach Silvia Neid complimented England on their pressing and said it took her team 30 minutes to get going.
This was evident with the number of times a stray pass was made by the Germans, prompting Neid to state that this was another game that “exposed" her team's weaknesses.”
Houghton said a good start was
important because of Germany’s qualities, and she praised her side for the way they worked from start to finish.
She said: “We know Germany are efficient and very physical, but they’re also very good footballers.
“But we have a team full of energy. I think Jordan Nobbs and Jill Scott probably ran a marathon out there, and I think when you have players like that who are nasty to play against, it allowed us to control the game and it felt mostly comfortable.”
In the past, England would go into games at this level and be considered huge underdogs, having never beaten Germany before their World Cup bronze medal triumph and often coming unstuck against the leading nations.
Now, having enjoyed a solid performance at the World Cup in Canada and with the result on Thursday, Houghton says the mentality of the players has changed considerably.
She said: “There has been a massive shift in the mentality of the team as a whole and I think it’s obvious that when you compare the team that played tonight to the one that played at Wembley a year ago, there is a lot more confidence.
“The experience at the World Cup and the journey we’ve been on has helped us build momentum, and we now want to take that into the European qualifiers.”
Today’s qualifiying game against Bosnia & Herzegovina is scheduled to be the last of the year for Mark Sampson’s side, and Houghton was quick to praise her teammates for making it a memorable 2015.
“What a fantastic year!” said Houghton, whose club Manchester City finished second in WSL1.
“From start to finish we’ve had that togetherness and winning mentality and we’ve got our just rewards.
“I think the result tonight has topped it off and hopefully we can finish the season with three points in Bristol.”
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