Women's World Cup: England's Steph Houghton praises tactics

Steph Houghton
England lost to France but won their final two group games to reach the last 16, with Norway their next opponent

England captain Steph Houghton has praised the tactics of manager Mark Sampson after the Lionesses reached the last 16 of the Women's World Cup.

Sampson used all 20 outfield players in England's three group games and switched formations for each match.

After losing to France, England beat Mexico and Colombia to set up a clash against Norway on Monday.

"Mark's trusting us to play different formations depending on the opposition and it's working well," Houghton said.

Sampson says he has had to manage the workload of his players because of the quick turnaround between games in Canada and the hard artificial pitches.

But former England striker Karen Walker told BBC Radio 5 live that some of Sampson's changes were "very surprising".

"I am sure he is nervous, like the players are, and wants to show he can do well at major competition with his tactics and changes, but it is working," said Walker.

Looking ahead to Norway

Sampson believes his side have the "weapons" to take on Norway, who were World Cup winners in 1995.

"Whatever we face in the latter stages, we know we have something to throw back," said the Welshman.

England played Norway in Sampson's first game in charge, the contest in January 2014 ending in a 1-1 draw.

"Norway will be tough," added Houghton, one of only three players, including goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and midfielder Fara Williams, to have started all three group games.

"They've got physical, strong players who've experienced big tournaments, but right now I'm just delighted we've gone through."

Bardsley defiant in face of criticism

The goalkeeper was at fault for Mexico's consolation goal in England's 2-1 victory, but she made a crucial save before half-time against Colombia to keep her side 2-0 in front.

"In my position, I'm always going to get a bit of flak." said Bardsley.

"I take it with a grain of salt. They can say what they want. It's their opinion. We forget what we don't need to take with us."

On the save from Carolina Arias, the 30-year-old added: "If they'd scored, it would have become a different game.

"I'm really pleased with the save and the fact it gave my team momentum going into the second half. It helped set the tone."

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