Opinion: England Lionesses prove why they are a force to be reckoned with at Euro 2017

Whisper it quietly Mark Sampson's England are the team to really watch out for.

Opinion: England Lionesses prove why they are a force to be reckoned with at Euro 2017
(Picture: Getty Images - VI-Images)

As the rain lashed down in Breda, little could dampen English resolve.

Fighting an onslaught of the trademark Spanish passing game, refusing to let their collective heads bow, steely purposefulness not to allow any player in red breach the well-crafted and highly-organised defensive lines.

Then being clinical with the chances they had at the other end with Fran Kirby netting early, to quell the nerves. A scintillating Jodie Taylor later showed a ruthless streak in front of goal, making it 2-0 in the second-half and quashing any hopes of a Spain comeback. 

England demonstrate tactical guile 

The 6-0 demolition of Scotland was a barometer of the potency of the attacking options. Taylor, Ellen White and Kirby ever the lynchpin in midfield running the show. There have been criticisms in the past, that the Lionesses have not been clinical enough and Mark Sampson has been quick to address those concerns. 

Firmly providing a strong tactical framework for his attacking players to thrive off, quickly moving the ball around, pulling defenders out of position and making excellent runs into channels. Instilling a confidence and fluidity that will cause even the most stubborn defences problems. 

Marked with a defensive strategy and structure that made Spain unable to break them down, Steph Houghton and co. played such a frenetic defensive pressing game. Spain, for all their possession, rarely looked as if they were going to trouble Karen Bardsley. Superior fitness levels clearly aided the team.  

The mental resilience to accomplish what they did last night should also not be understated and is reason to suggest that England are the real deal and firmly the tournament favourites.

England find a way to win  

Sampson, after beating Spain, was under no illusions as to how big the win was as he declared: "It's a brilliant result - I'm very proud of the players and I think we'll look back on this one and say it was a really big moment for us."

The Lionesses boss added: "We had to find a way to win. I think we worked incredibly hard. It was a very, very tough game for us and we knew we needed a win to top the group."

It is that fundamental ability to find a way to win that is pivotal to winning tournaments. Even at times against Spain, England dug deep into mental and physical reserves, taking limited opportunities in front of goal. Whilst maintaining defensive order, it wasn’t an emphatic display; it did however show the other side of the team.

It was a resilient and a complete team display, turning undoubted individual talent into a cohesive performance. A facet of team ethic, that one of England’s rivals France have struggled to find. Even under siege, England produced a defensive masterclass.

Sampson, at the end of the World Cup in Canada, had reason to be despondent, given the form that England demonstrated. Even a well earned third place seemed too little a reward, such was the resurgent England side well and truly living up to their potential.

It did not put his overall vision off the tracks. It has done the opposite, it has strengthened his hand. Players now not only believe they can win over France and holders Germany, but that they can become the best in the world. The upward trajectory of English fortunes has been remarkable.

England have nothing to fear and given the displays showing signs of pre-tournament favourites, there is a sense and whisper this very quietly, that this could be England's year.

They are the real deal, and should Sampson lead the Lionesses to the title, it would be no more than this golden generation of players richly deserve.  


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