England head for Canada

21 August 2014 08:31

England are optimistic a fourth FIFA Women's World Cup campaign can be their most successful yet, as Mark Sampson's team made sure of qualification in ruthless fashion.

A 4-0 victory over Wales means England have booked their place at Canada 2015 with a game to spare.

They will head to Montenegro next month aiming to complete a perfect 10 out of 10 record after nine straight wins to date.

Needing just a point at the Cardiff City Stadium, Karen Carney's early opening goal set up the visitors for a comfortable night against opponents who could still join them in Canada next year through the play-offs.

Eniola Aluko, Laura Bassett and Lianne Sanderson added goals before half-time, and England, who have taken inspiration from the national women's rugby team's World Cup triumph, were able to cruise from there on.

Managed by a Welshman in 31-year-old former Swansea City centre of excellence boss Sampson, England look a different team to the side easily picked apart at last summer's European Championships, when they managed just one point from three group games.

A set of players wracked with anxiety at Euro 2013 now revel in each other's company, sharing in coffee clubs and socialising together, carrying their bond onto the pitch.

Sanderson has been an early beneficiary of the new era, having retired from international football four years ago, as a 22-year-old, when her testy relationship with then manager Hope Powell became irreconcilable.

Sampson, appointed in December after the team played their first four qualifiers under caretaker boss Brent Hills, immediately summoned the Boston Breakers striker across the Atlantic for a winter training camp in Spain.

She instantly bonded with team-mates she feared might cold-shoulder her. England set up in an attacking formation, with three strikers in Sanderson, Aluko and Toni Duggan and the inventive Carney playing just behind as she won a 98th cap.

Carney's opening goal in the 16th minute was ostensibly a fluke, her curling free-kick from the left being missed by Aluko and deceiving goalkeeper Nicola Davies on its way inside the far post.

Jordan Nobbs drifted a 20-yard effort against the top of the Wales crossbar as England sought a swift second.

That extra cushion came in the 39th minute when Aluko produced an explosive finish, taking down a throw-in from the right and lashing the ball across Davies.

It was 3-0 by the 44th minute as centre-back Bassett, selected ahead of former captain Casey Stoney, prodded home a left-wing corner from Carney.

Sanderson punished shaky defending just a minute later when the mohawked striker darted into space to head in right-back Alex Scott's pacey cross.

Sampson told BBC Three: "It's a special moment. We wanted to come here and do the job and I thought for spells in the first half we were outstanding.

"The objective was to win and to play well and qualify, and there was loads of good play in our performance.

"We've finally made it to Canada.

"We're excited by it, with the way we're playing at the moment, but there's lots more to come from this group."

Source: PA