England complete clean sweep of group to set up France clash

27 Jul


Toni Duggan and Nikita Parris struck early in each half as England made it three wins from three at the Women’s European Championship to set up a blockbuster quarter-final against France.

On Sunday, England will be looking to end a winless run against France that dates back to 1974.

This 2-1 victory over Portugal in Tilburg ensured the good work in the matches against Scotland and Spain did not go to waste as England sealed top spot in Group D.

And although it was far from a persuasive England performance, the fringe players brought in by manager Mark Sampson brought home the three points.

Duggan chipped in to punish a goalkeeping blunder, and Parris fired home in the 48th minute to restore England’s lead after Portugal had become the first team to score against the Lionesses at this tournament.

It made Sampson’s team the first senior England side, male or female, to take maximum points in the group stage of a European Championship finals.

But the watching France coach Olivier Echouafni would have learned little ahead of Sunday’s big match, which will be played in Deventer.

Sampson made 10 changes, with only Millie Bright surviving from the starting line-ups that impressively saw off Scotland and Spain.

Laura Bassett, the defender whose own goal against Japan in the 2015 World Cup semi-finals ended their title hopes in that tournament, captained the side.

In came three players each with over 100 caps, in right-back Alex Scott and midfielders Fara Williams and Karen Carney, while Duggan reached a half-century of England appearances.

And Duggan was gifted England’s seventh-minute opener by a howler from goalkeeper Patricia Morais, who slashed a kick out straight at the England striker. Duggan was rapped on the legs by the ball but confidently brought it under control and fired in from 25 yards for her second goal of the tournament, and 17th of her career for England.

But they were surprisingly caught out by Portugal in the 17th minute when ponderous defending allowed Carolina Mendes to tap in an equaliser from Diana Silva’s low cross.

And Mendes might have had a second moments later but squandered a headed opportunity.

England went flat through to the break, worryingly so for Sampson. Of those promoted to the starting XI, there was nobody obviously staking a claim to stay there for the quarter-finals, perhaps with the exception of Duggan.

But England restored their lead in the third minute of the second half.

Parris collected a flicked ball forward by her Manchester City club-mate Izzy Christiansen and showed persistence in fending off surrounding defenders before jabbing a low finish past Morais.

Bright made way for England’s regular vice-captain Jordan Nobbs just before the hour, and the midfielder fizzed a shot just off target as she looked to make an immediate impact.

The vim in Portugal’s game from the first half had gone away, and the equaliser that would have seen them accompany England through to the last eight never looked like coming.

England will fancy it against France on Sunday, given their own results and soaring confidence, plus the fact Les Bleues only just scraped through in second place from Group C.

The big guns, led by captain Steph Houghton and hot-shot striker Jodie Taylor, will be back for that one.

Source: PA






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