By Tony Leighton
A ‘worldie’ by USA substitute Crystal Dunn sentenced England to a 1-0 defeat in their She Believes Cup opener in Florida last night.
Dunn cut inside from the left to drill a superbly struck 18-yard angled drive into the top far corner of the net 18 minutes from time.
The goal decided a tightly fought contest that Mark Sampson’s team edged for long periods but never seriously tested American goalkeeper Hope Solo.
“It’s hard to take,” said head coach Sampson. “We wanted to come here and win, and for the majority of the game we competed really well.
“Credit to America though, they’re the world champions for a reason and they won the game with an absolutely fantastic goal.
“But we’ve come into their own back yard, gone toe to toe with their best team and been right in the game from minute one to minute 90.”
England might have had an early penalty when the ball struck central defender Becky Sauerbrunn’s arm inside the area.
And before Dunn scored, a second half chance was wasted when Toni Duggan shot for goal instead of teeing up perfectly positioned strike partner Jodie Taylor.
Not that Sampson was blaming Duggan. “Like the penalty decision that was frustrating,” said the coach, “but I’ll hold my hand up for that second incident.
“There’d been three shooting opportunities we didn’t take in the first half, so at half-time I told them they had to take their responsibilities in front of goal.”
Next up for England is a Sunday meeting in Nashville with Germany, who opened their campaign with a 1-0 win against France yesterday.
England beat the Germans for the first time ever in the World Cup bronze medal match last year then drew with them in Duisburg in November.
So after running the world’s top team close last night, English confidence should be high when they take on the side ranked second.
“I can’t wait for this match,” said Sampson, though he added, “Germany are an outstanding team and we’ll have to be at our very best to get the result we want.”