In the appropriate surroundings of Canada House, Mark Sampson will on Monday morning reveal the 23 players he hopes will deliver the England women’s team’s best World Cup finish. The target, in Canada this summer, is to win the competition, but even a semi-final place would be breaking new ground for the female game.
For Sampson, who took over as manager from Hope Powell after the disastrous 2013 European Championship, it will be the first time he has competed at this level. The main issue surrounding his squad is how certain he can be of key players’ fitness. The 2013 tournament was undermined by Powell taking six players to the finals who were not match-fit.
Chief among these is his captain, Steph Houghton, who has only just returned from injury, but also fellow defender Lucy Bronze, veteran midfielder Karen Carney and strikers Toni Duggan and Ellen White. He will be hoping all players in contention emerged unscathed from this weekend’s round of Women’s Super League fixtures, the last before the competition breaks for the World Cup.
Sampson led England to the finals with 10 straight wins in qualifying, then steered them to victory in the Cyprus Cup, beating this summer’s hosts in the final. However, defeats to Germany and the USA have tempered optimism despite last month’s win over China.
There is a lot riding on England’s performance. There has been considerable investment in the women’s club game but attendances have risen slowly. A good showing in Canada, with all matches on BBC TV, should give the game a further boost in publicity ahead of the first Women’s FA Cup final to be staged at Wembley in August.
In Germany, four years ago, England lost on penalties to France in the quarter-finals. In Moncton, Quebec, next month they face France again in a match that should decide who wins their group. Mexico and Colombia make up England’s section.
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