He has made the England team his own, blending youth and experience, whilst phasing out previous England ever-presents such as Rachel Yankey, Casey Stoney and Kelly Smith. In what has been an exciting era for English women’s football, Sampson reintegrated Lianne Sanderson, an exile from the former regime and handed debuts to talented youngster Fran Kirby and Washington Spirit’s Jodie Taylor.
England’s Qualification in Numbers:
1: Goal conceded
10: Number of games played and won, and highest number of goals scored in one game (vs. Montenegro)
13: Goals scored by Eni Aluko in 10 games
52: Goals scored in total
Q: But how much can we gauge from England’s qualification?
A: Not that much! In their group were Turkey, Belarus, Montenegro, Wales and Ukraine. The latter two posed the only genuine threats to England’s qualification yet both were brushed aside professionally by Sampson’s Lionesses. What we do know is that England are a well-drilled, professional and cohesive unit who never once let complacency come in the way of their qualification campaign. They have the ability to score plenty of goals, with defenders and midfielders scoring a sizeable proportion as well. We have also had a glimpse at the future of the team, with Reading striker Fran Kirby now seemingly a regular in the squad.
Q: Does this mean we can start to get excited for Canada 2015?
A: Yes: England have promise and proven talent. Under Mark Sampson England have shown they can perform against big teams too, for example in the 4-0 rout of Sweden in August.
No: England were not the only European team to qualify with maximum points – Germany, Sweden and France also achieved the same feat. The Japanese will be as strong as ever, as will the USA, and the Canadians will be no walkover. England’s two-legged friendly against Germany in November will be a telling and crucial phase of Mark Sampson’s World Cup preparation.
Q: Can we go all the way at the World Cup Finals?
A: Sadly not: I fear it will be a campaign that promises much but delivers little when coming up against perennial powerhouses such as the USA or Germany. I see the Euros in 2017 as a more realistic target for success for the Lionesses.
My advice would be not to get too carried away with England’s qualifying success, and remember the teams that Sampson’s side came up against. Timid optimism is all I will feel come Canada 2015, and I hope Mark Sampson and his Lionesses will prove me wrong.
Do England have an outside chance at winning the World Cup? How far do you think we will get? Who will be our key player at the World Cup?
Read more from Dan Miller here!