herald

Sunday 25 August 2019

Houghton determined to take the next step

England's Steph Houghton
England's Steph Houghton

England captain Steph Houghton feels the Lionesses delivered a performance full of intensity and heart that "showed what we're all about" in the Women's World Cup quarter-final victory over Norway.

Phil Neville's side set up a semi-final clash against either hosts France or holders the United States next Tuesday in Lyon.

Reflecting on a match that set a new UK television viewing record for women's football, being watched by a peak audience of 7.6million, Houghton said: "Our intensity in terms of our defending, when we were countering - I think they couldn't live with us.

"Just the heart that everybody showed.

"I think there's been a lot spoken about us and I think from the Norwegians themselves about how we don't like running. But to be honest, our performance showed what we're all about.

"We want to win, we want to win big football matches. We give respect to Norway, but at the same time we wanted to win and we've done that."

Jill Scott's finish put England ahead in the third minute, Ellen White doubled the lead in the 40th and Lucy Bronze then made it 3-0 with a stunning strike just before the hour mark.

In a fine individual display, Houghton also thwarted Norway with a cool interception in the box early in the second half, then kept out a Lisa-Marie Utland shot with a goal-line clearance shortly after Bronze's goal.

The centre-back was caught on the ankle by a poor Alexandra Takounda tackle late on in Sunday's 3-0 last-16 win over Cameroon, and was described as a "major doubt" for the Norway game by Neville.

Houghton stressed it had not been a case of mind games from Neville, and said: "I did everything I could (and) I'm standing here as a winning captain, leading my team into a semi-final.

"No (there were no painkillers involved), just treatment. I'm happy, I'm fit, I'm healthy and I'm ready to go again."

The 31-year-old added: "We've got to take confidence in our performance. We got a clean sheet, we've beaten a top Norwegian team, and it could have been five or six really."

Playmaker Fran Kirby added: "It's really exciting for us. We've been to two semi-finals and we don't want to feel that hurt again. We have to do everything to recover."

Former England captain David Beckham, Neville's old team-mate, and his daughter Harper were among the crowd of 21,111 at the stadium on Thursday.

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