England capable of achieving ‘something special’ at the World Cup – Houghton

England capable of achieving ‘something special’ at the World Cup – Houghton

England captain Steph Houghton says the Lionesses are ready to “do something special” at the Women’s World Cup this summer.

Boss Phil Neville named his 23-player squad for the tournament in France earlier this month and they have warm-up games against Denmark in Walsall on Saturday and New Zealand in Brighton a week later before opening their campaign against Scotland in Nice on June 9.

England came third at the 2015 World Cup, got to the semi-finals of Euro 2017, and in March won the four-team SheBelieves Cup for the first time.

Houghton, skipper throughout, told Press Association Sport on Thursday when asked if the current squad was equipped to win this World Cup: “Yes.

“I’ve been in plenty of squads in terms of World Cups and European Championships and all have had different strengths.

“And I think for this one especially we have the right blend of youth and experience, we have players who have played in top pressure games where you have to go and win, and I feel we have a squad that wants to go and win and has that winning mentality to go and do something special in France.”

Regarding what the team winning the tournament would do for women’s football in England, the defender said: “It would be absolutely amazing.

Houghton is confident in England's chances
Houghton is confident in England’s chances (John Walton/PA)

“It would be a dream come true for us as players but for the game as a whole, I think you saw what happened in 2015 – success does bring interest and allow young girls to dream of being a footballer, and now there’s a pathway to go and do that.

“For us, our focus is on doing as well as we possibly can and making sure that, no matter what, we give it our everything when we’re over there.”

England’s squad includes two players who featured in last weekend’s Champions League final, Lyon’s Lucy Bronze and Barcelona’s Toni Duggan.

And Lyon, who won 4-1 to claim the title for a fourth successive year, this week signed England forward Nikita Parris. All three players were previously with Houghton at Manchester City.

Houghton said: “It’s important for Manchester City to keep the best players, but at the same time, as a team-mate of Nikita and a friend, I wish her all the best at Lyon.

“And for us to have some of our squad playing for the likes of Lyon, Barca, or in America, we’re all playing good football games, in high-pressured environments, and when we come back together with England that only drives the standard of our training.

“It pushes you be a better player, playing against those kind of players, so it can can only be a good thing for the national team.”

Nikita Parris is joining Lyon
Nikita Parris is joining Lyon (Martin Rickett/PA)

The squad features two players nominated for last year’s inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or in Bronze and Chelsea’s Fran Kirby.

Kirby has had a 2018-19 disrupted by injuries, including hamstring and knee issues, but said on Thursday of her fitness: “It completely has been dealt with.

“I think now I’m in the best shape I have been all year. It’s the first time this year really that I’ve been able to play without any pain. So I’m in a good place looking forward to the World Cup.”

The England squad spent much of the past 24 hours in the company of the Marines, sleeping in tents on Wednesday night.

Goalkeeper Karen Bardsley described the team-building exercise as a “fantastic experience”.

Karen Bardsley felt the team bonding trip was worthwhile
Karen Bardsley felt the team bonding trip was worthwhile (Mike Egerton/PA)

She told Sky Sports: “They’re a group of really inspiring guys who have been through so much.

“Their stories are just filled with courage, determination and resilience. They’ve been through more than we could possibly imagine.

“Trying to pull the parallels from that – I thought it was going to be tough at first but actually, on a very different scale, they’re quite similar.

“We spent the night in a tent surrounded by fire, we made our own dinner, we had our own tasks that we needed to fulfil but overall I think it was a fantastic experience and I’m really glad I did it.”