Pics: The FA
By Tony Leighton
AS he looks to achieve his ambition of winning the 2017 Women’s European Championship finals, England head coach Mark Sampson is planning a series of friendly matches against the most difficult of opponents to supplement what is a reasonably comfortable Euro qualifying campaign.
Having started their group fixtures with an 8-0 victory in Estonia – with a team showing eight changes from the line-up which beat Germany 1-0 to claim World Cup bronze in July – England are likely to have similarly big qualifying wins against nations ranked way below themselves in Fifa’s world listing.
Sampson’s side already have a November friendly away to Germany, ranked second, ahead of the qualifier against Bosnia & Herzegovina (71st).
And more tough games are in the pipeline outside the Euro campaign – at least one and possibly two before the trip to Duisburg to face the Germans.
“At this point,” said Sampson, “I’m really confident that we will get some fixtures in October to give us the momentum to keep building. The challenge for us as an FA is to give us the best chance of competing in the European Championships.
“It’s not rocket science to say that we need to be playing against the best teams. The friendly matches we had before the World Cup against Germany at Wembley and the USA at Milton Keynes (both lost) were defining moments.
“Without those tests we would not have had the experience we needed going into the World Cup, so we need to keep having those tests.
“We get a lot from the qualifying matches, they’re competitive games, but we also need those competitive games against major opposition.”