Women's World Cup: England ready for biggest game

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport in Edmonton, Canada
Steph Houghton
England captain Steph Houghton (left) has won 59 caps for England - scoring eight goals
Women's World Cup semi-final: Japan v England
Date: Thursday, 2 July. Kick-off: 00:00 BST. Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Sport website

England captain Steph Houghton says her team's World Cup semi-final is the biggest game in English women's football history.

The Lionesses are the first England team to reach a World Cup last four spot since 1990 and face Japan in Edmonton on 2 July (00:00 BST).

"We should be really proud of being the first women's team to get to the semi-final," Houghton, 27, said.

"It's the biggest game in English women's football and I can't wait."

Manchester City defender Houghton was part of the England squad which lost to France in the last eight of the 2011 World Cup and the Great Britain squad defeated by Canada in the quarter-finals of the London 2012 Olympics.

She was only two years old when the men's team reached the semi-final of the 1990 World Cup in Italy, with the World Cup win in 1966 the only other occasion when a men's or women's team have made it to the last four.

"In terms of English football, we have always been known to get to quarter-finals and get knocked out so we have taken that off people's backs, we've shown we can get to a semi-final and we can play under pressure," she said.

"English women's football is getting bigger and bigger each year and we knew the Olympics was a massive moment for us but to go that step further, it's a huge opportunity to try and inspire young girls to play and look at us as heroes. That's what drives us on as well, to give them that opportunity to play international football when they are older."

England's passage to the last four under head coach Mark Sampson has gained huge media attention in England, with the quarter-final win over hosts Canada spread across the front and back pages of national newspapers.

David Beckham
Former England captain David Beckham has been backing the Lionesses in Canada.

Messages of support have come in from the Duke of Cambridge, former and current England captains David Beckham and Wayne Rooney, plus film and music stars.

But Houghton, who was named as captain by Sampson in April 2014 and scored three times for GB in the 2012 Olympics, said the attention was "deserved".

The former Arsenal and Sunderland player added: "It's a bit surreal to be honest, the time difference means we aren't getting messages until the morning when England is waking up and your phone is going mental and your family are saying that you are all over the news.

"Everyone is buzzing about England women and getting to the semi-final.

"We deserve this moment, we have worked so hard to get into this position and we gave everything against Canada. We knew it was massive opportunity.

"To say we are in a semi-final of a World Cup is pretty special.

"We now have two massive games to come and hopefully that ends with a winner's medal but we know we need to be at our best against Japan."

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