By Tony Leighton
England ended their She Believes Cup campaign with just one point after a goalless draw against France, but head coach Mark Sampson was satisfied with his team’s performance at the four-nation tournament in America.
Sampson’s side followed one-goal defeats by world champions the USA and European champions Germany – the world’s two top-ranked teams – with a well earned result against the third-ranked French.
Les Bleues wasted a couple of chances in a first half which they controlled, but a 42nd minute England opening was squandered when left winger Demi Stokes shot straight at keeper Meline Gerard after being set up by midfielder Jill Scott.
England then had the better of the second half but, despite going close through long range efforts by midfielders Katie Chapman and Jordan Nobbs and by substitute Karen Carney, they were unable to make a breakthrough.
Sampson said: “It was a game of two halves, a lot of that due to the wind. We were playing a high line and got caught a couple of times in the first half, but in the second half we were outstanding and might well have got the win.
“Chances don’t come around too often in these games, but the way the team are moving forward now we’ll get more chances and start executing them. We need to have the belief in the final third, and that’s coming.
“The nice thing is that the players were gutted not to have won. In the past they might have been happy with a draw against France, a team we’ve not beaten for a long time (42 years), but we’re getting closer.
“What I’ve said to the players is to think where we were at as a team before the start of this tournament and where we are after the work we’ve put in against these top teams – we’re really developing as a group and that’s very pleasing.”
The result meant that England finished third in the tournament, level on points with France but having a better goal total, while the USA – who beat Germany 2-1 last night – were winners and the Germans runners-up.
On a closing note at the end of the tournament Sampson paid tribute to England’s latest centurion, Chelsea striker Eniola Aluko, who won her 100th international cap as a second half substitute during the game against France.
“Eni is a very special player, a real talent,” said Sampson. “The way the players reacted to her at the end of the match and the way she spoke to the squad in the dressing room was lovely to see – I’m delighted for her and proud of her.”
An emotional Aluko said: “It’s a great moment for me and my family and the people that have invested in my career over the years. All the players I’ve played with for many years too – I think 11 years with some of them.
“I think it’s one of those rubber stamp things in your life when you go, ‘it’s all been worth it, the good times and the bad times.’ So I’m still here, and hopefully I’ll keep being picked and continue my journey with England.”