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Sampson stays positive despite England defeat


Closing in: England’s Steph Houghton is put under pressure from Eugenie Le Sommer

Closing in: England’s Steph Houghton is put under pressure from Eugenie Le Sommer

AFP/Getty Images

Closing in: England’s Steph Houghton is put under pressure from Eugenie Le Sommer

Head coach Mark Sampson hailed "an excellent England performance" despite a 1-0 defeat to France in the team's opening Women's World Cup group game.

Eugenie Le Sommer rifled a 29th-minute winner for France after England conceded possession deep in midfield.

The Lionesses pushed for an equaliser in the final 30 minutes, after taking an increasingly positive approach and switching formation from 4-5-1 to 4-3-3, but chances were at a premium as France held firm.

"The longer the second half went on there was only one team that was going to score," Sampson said. "That was an excellent England performance."

France beat England on penalties at the 2011 World Cup and were resounding 3-0 winners against the Lionesses at Euro 2013, in what proved to be Hope Powell's final match in charge.

Sampson's team face Mexico and Colombia in their final two Group F games, and showed enough in the late stages against France to indicate they can come through those games to reach the knock-out rounds.

Rated the sixth best team in the world by Fifa, England knew the game against third-ranked France was sure to be tough.

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The early damage could not be repaired, but Sampson remained positive.

"I thought we managed the first half superbly," said the 32-year-old. "You're always going to be vulnerable to a sharp counter-attack. Sometimes you get caught with a fantastic finish."

The artificial pitch at the Moncton Stadium appeared to cause England no trouble, but France posed them plenty, particularly in the first half.

England were largely reliant on Eni Aluko leading the attack by herself in the early stages. Sampson had warned ahead of the game that France possessed great individual ability and England duly looked to spoil, playing a defender in Lucy Bronze on the left wing.

Le Sommer had seen a shot deflected wide before her big moment arrived.

England were ponderous in midfield and Gaetane Thiney stepped in to dispossess Katie Chapman before letting strike partner Le Sommer take over, with the reward a powerful shot from 25 yards that soared high into the right corner.

Karen Bardsley leapt across to get her fingers to the ball but the England goalkeeper could not prevent Le Sommer's 45th international strike.

Louisa Necib swept a shot into the side-netting as France sought to double their lead before half-time, before Chapman floated an effort wide at the other end.

Aluko was too isolated though, left to run the channels with support arriving late, if at all, and while she was a willing runner it looked a frustrating role.

Sampson made no changes at the break, and inside a minute was grateful that Bardsley positioned herself well to gather a 20-yard effort from Le Sommer.

Jill Scott had England's best effort of the first hour from a corner, when Aluko's smart delivery picked out the midfielder. On the turn, Manchester City player Scott sent a half-volley into Sarah Bouhaddi's grateful arms.

Toni Duggan came on for Ellen White in the 60th minute to support Aluko as England went from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2.

Chapman was booked for a trip before France's Camille Abily might have seen red after leading with her elbow on centre-back Laura Bassett.

England had a third forward on the pitch after introducing Fran Kirby and were putting France under greater pressure, but an equaliser just would not come.

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