Houghton issues Japan warning as England seal semi-final showdown
STEPH HOUGHTON, the England captain, has warned the Lionesses will have to defy the odds once again if they are to edge past reigning champions Japan and reach the World Cup final.
Mark Sampson’s side defeated hosts Canada to knock them out of the tournament with a hard-fought 2-1 quarter-final victory at the BC Place Stadium in Vancouver.
England will go into their semi-final showdown with the Japanese on Wednesday full of confidence, but Houghton knows the challenge only gets tougher to make history and get into the final.
“We know it’s going to be a massive game on Wednesday,” she said. “We’ve got to respect them. They are world champions for a reason.
“Now it’s all about recovering and focusing on trying our best to get into a final.”
The 27-year-old Manchester City defender and her teammates earned their crack at the holders after establishing a quick-fire two-goal lead and then defending it tigerishly as Canada launched a concerted fightback.
Jodie Taylor’s 11th-minute strike got them off to the perfect start, and when Lucy Bronze’s header cannoned off the crossbar and then over the line to double their advantage just three minutes later, they were in dreamland.
However, Canada captain Christine Sinclair reduced the deficit three minutes before the break, setting up a tense second half during which England had to endure serious pressure to hang on to their lead.
For Casey Stoney, who came off the bench to help shore up the defence, it proved the highlight of her lengthy career to date.
“I never had any seed of doubt,” she said. “I knew this team was going to win today.
“It’s taken all of us to get here. I’m just so thankful and so proud of these girls for getting us over the line. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever felt in my career. Incredible.”
Despite securing a famous win, Stoney admitted England were not at their best against Canada.
“Canada fought to the wire. They gave us a tough game. For us, it probably wasn’t the best performance, but we did exactly what we wanted.”