Houghton is­sues Ja­pan warn­ing as Eng­land seal semi-fi­nal show­down

The Herald - Sport - - FOOTBALL -

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.”

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