MONTREAL – Mark Sampson will look towards a strong performance from England against Colombia on Wednesday afternoon at Olympic Stadium.
Colombia currently sit atop Group F after a surprising 2-0 win over France. Sampson expects his team to raise the bar and bring better quality than what England have shown against France and Mexico. A result will almost certainly put England into the knockout round and that’s what Sampson and his squad will solely be focused on.
“Preparations been good,” the England coach said. “The team’s off the back of a very positive performance and victory against a good Mexican team. We’ve put ourselves in a good position in the group and we know what we need to do now to progress and get ourselves in a good position for the last sixteen. We’re focused on that. The teams been really working hard to make sure we prepare for this game as well as we have for the first two. The challenge we’ve laid down for the team is to raise the bar. We’ve shown good qualities in the France game, different qualities in the Mexico game. The challenge is to really bring those together and produce a big performance tomorrow.”
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Vice-captain Jordan Nobbs has yet to see the pitch for England. The Arsenal Ladies ‘Energizer Bunny’ is recovering from a hamstring and knee injury that she picked up in the FAWSL prior to the World Cup. Jodie Taylor is currently on the mend after having knee surgery. Sampson will have 22 of 23 players available to start vs Colombia. Taylor is the only player that will not be in contention to start. Nobbs and Lianne Sanderson are fit as well and should expect to see some playing time.
“Jordan’s been match fit since the start of the tournament so she’s in a good place,” Sampson said. “We need to look at Jodie after a little bit of a setback during the Mexico game. She’ll be available to play tomorrow, but not from the start, unfortunately. She’ll be available if needed to come off the bench, which is a positive for us. We felt after that Mexico game she might have suffered a longer setback, but the next day she recovered up better than we expected, so she’s in a good place. Trained a full session yesterday, looked sharp. Great to have her available off the bench tomorrow.”
Colombia coach Felipe Taborda and his team have a new goal and optimism heading into their clash with England. It’s not enough just to advance to the knockout round. Taborda would like to see Colombia win Group F and remain in Montreal.
“We have new expectations for tomorrow. We want to stay in Montreal,” Taborda.
Colombia currently have five players sitting on yellow cards. Skipper Natalia Gaitan is one of those integral players that could face a match ban if she picks up another yellow card. Taborda insists his team will be strong no matter who is on the pitch. All 23 players are up for selection no matter what their caution status is.
“Well we have some players that have yellows,” Taborda said. “We have a team of 23 players and they have a good level, and they are going to play well. (They’re) not going to be rude to the referee to get another card. We’re not going to talk about cards.”
If France are to breakout with a goal-scoring romp against Mexico, goal-differential will determine top spot in Group F, if England can also claim a victory over Colombia. Currently, England have a differential of Zero, while Les Bleues are minus -1 after an underwhelming showing against Colombia. Mark Sampson is not bothered by what France will do and how goal-differential may decide who finishes first in Group F.
“I don’t care,” he said of positioning. “It’s about England winning tomorrow, about England performing and our focus has been exactly on that. Whatever France do, whatever Mexico do, is up to them. Our focus and we’re comfortable with the result as long as it’s an England win. That’ll be our complete focus and it has been over the course of the week. Produce a big performance, build on France, build on Mexico and get the victory we want. We’ll have no paying attention from the players to the French result. It’ll be complete focus on our levels. All we can control on the field and that’ll be about our performance and really pushing towards an important victory.”
England have control of their own fate. If they win, they’ll be off to the knockout round. First place is up for grabs, second place is within reach and a trip to the field of sixteen is in the cards for the Lionesses. The focus for England is to do play well, earn a result and control what’s in their hands. France is a side that could score a barrel of goals vs Mexico. England can’t be worried about what France will do. The Welsh Manager will make sure England are prepared for what they can only control.
“Our destiny is completely in our own hands. We want to finish in those top two positions which means we need to get a victory tomorrow and that’ll be the players focus. If France manage to score lots of goals and overtake us, than so be it. Our focus will be on performing to our maximum levels, playing the game in front of us and getting a victory.”
Natalia Gaitan, 24, knows that tomorrow will be a match she wont soon forget. Colombia and England both have a tremendous opportunity to put themselves in great standing for the final sixteen. Whoever comes out on top could finish above France.
“We know that tomorrow is going to be a special match. Right now we are in a very good position.”
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