Lionesses boss Sampson ‘not reading too much’ into previous encounters as his side head into the quarters against a team they haven’t beaten in over 40 years
England v France by Asif Burhan, Netherlands Sunday 7.45pm, Channel 4
In Devente r tomorrow night, England will face their perennial rivals France for the fourth major tournament in a row, knowing they haven’t beaten them in any match since 1974.
The first of those meetings came in Leverkusen in the 2011 World Cup when England led for most of the second-half through Jill Scott’s goal, only for France to equalise right at the death and eventually win on penalties.
France also eliminated England from the last Euros at the group stage with a comprehensive 3-0 win before another group stage victory in the 2015 World Cup.
Both sides have been at pains to dismiss the weight of history. “It doesn’t mean they get a onegoal head start,” claimed England manager Mark Sampson. “From our point of view, when the first whistle blows, the game starts.”
They have also met in three friendlies since, France winning the last at the She Believes Cup in March with a 95th-minute winner, again after England led for most of the game.
“I’m not going to read much into that,” said Sampson. “We always knew that game was going to be assessed on the first 60 minutes and in the first 60 minutes, I thought we were by far the better team.”
England captain Steph Houghton has played in all of those recent games. “Over the last two games against France we’ve drawn and lost in the last minute so we must be getting closer to one of the best teams in the world and we have to respect them.”
Having come to the tournament as many people’s pre-tournament favourites, France have struggled to convince with only one unconvincing win and two draws.
Defender Laura Georges, who is likely to make her first start of the competition in the absence of captain Wendie Renard, is hoping France will emulate Portugal’s men in the Euro last year by flourishing in the knockout stages.
“It’s a different competition for us now,” she said.
“We have seen since the beginning of the competition that England is a very efficient team, it will be a good challenge for the defenders to be against a team who are able to score at any moment.”
Houghton will lead a confident squad into the match. “I’m really excited, I think the quality and the depth that we have in this squad is frightening.
“We’ve got to make sure we focus ourselves and do what we’ve been doing really well over the first three games so far.”