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Euro 2017

Sampson: England aim ‘to give Spain the most horrible 90 minutes of their lives’

Mark Sampson is confident in the Lionesses' ability to get a win over Spain. (Getty Images)

Mark Sampson is confident in the Lionesses’ ability to get a win over Spain. (Getty Images)

UTRECHT, Netherlands – It’s going to be a battle of two very different football ideologies with England and Spain set to kickoff on Sunday night in Breda. Spain loves to play pretty possession-oriented football with quick and clever key plays. The Lionesses get to work, out muscle opponents, and look to capitalize on set piece brilliance.

“They’re a very laid back society,” said Mark Sampson, “very laid back nature in terms of they work hard and play hard. England’s hustle and bustle, we’ve got the tube. It’s about strapping your way on, one-hundred mile an hour. It’s a matter of which team can bring that quality on Sunday.”

While England won’t be taking the tube down to Rat Verlegh Stadion in Breda, they will be ready to lace up and expose Spain just as they did Scotland on Wednesday. You could perhaps see a squad rotation against Spain with a mix of players drawing into the England lineup. Who exactly comes out? Well, that’s for Sampson to decide. You’d have a hard time determining who sits after such a dominating win to open the tournament.

“That’s Spain’s problem to work out,” said Sampson when asked about his lineup. “We’re going to set the team up to give Spain the most horrible ninety minutes of their lives. If we do that, I’m confident we’ll come away with three points.”

It’s important that England do not let up against Spain. The Lionesses have shown to be the class of the EUROs thus far, and continuing in the right direction means doing the job against the 13th-ranked FIFA team. England’s Fara Williams knows all too well what kind of problems Spain can bring if the Lionesses aren’t fully switched on and locked in.

“Spain’s a very difficult opponent,” admitted Williams. “We played them not long a go in a friendly. It was 2-1. We dominated the first half, and in the second half, I think we took our foot off the pedal and allowed them back in the game. If you allow technicians like Spain into the game, they can start to dominate. They did that, and they were close.

“I think where we are at now, compared to when we had a friendly back then–I don’t say this lightly–our fitness levels have gone to other levels, and other levels that we haven’t played at or trained at before. I think our fitness will shine through, and you’ll see a similar result.”

There very well could be a theatrical performance if Sampson’s scouting report is on point. He’s more than made it known throughout the lead up to the match that Spain is happy to flop and roll around on the pitch in what would be an Oscar-worthy performance.

“It’s a shame with Spain, really,” a vocal Sampson said. “As a football purist they bring so much in terms of their tippy-tappy football, and the tiki-taka stuff. They let themselves down with willingness to roll around and feign injury. I just hope that we see the real Spain on Sunday, and the football world gets to see the quality football they can play, rather than the theatrical side of rolling around. Let’s have a strong referee who won’t stand for that type of stuff from either team, England and Spain.”

It’s a wonderful strategy from Sampson to deflect attention towards Spain and any possible shenanigans. Carina Vitulano of Italy is the appointed referee for the match. She’ll have to make sure both sides are aware that diving won’t be tolerated. Embellishment is a wide enough epidemic in men’s football; women’s football only suffers when teams resort to gaining an edge by going to ground rather easily.

Millie Bright isn’t about to be drawn in by a potential diving contest from Spain. The England and Chelsea Ladies center back is ready for the here and now. That’s all she and her teammates can do to make sure they tip up Spain and secure another victory.

“I think you just have to look at it. We can control what we can control. We just have to keep focusing on what we’re doing. I think that’s all we can do,” said Bright.

England have an opportunity to turn a corner and take that next leap by booking a spot in the quarterfinals. A resounding England win would confirm the Lionesses are the team to beat at EURO 2017. Spain will obviously have other ideas, and that’s why it’s going to be a cracker of a match in Breda.

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