Hought on: Now we can live with the best!

The Football League Paper - - WOMEN'S FOOTBALL WEEKLY - By Kieran Thievam

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.”

Marathon

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.”

PRIDE OF ENG­LAND: The Lionesses won World Cup bronze medals

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