England’s new aura has Karen Carney thinking of gold at Euro 2017

Karen Carney believes England have developed the sort of aura that distinguishes champions from also-rans. Although the Chelsea winger does not turn 30 until next month, the European Championship is her eighth major tournament and she can remember a time when the Lionesses felt, if not out of place, a little uncomfortable in elite company.

“I think there’s a bit of an aura about this team now,” said the creator of England’s fifth goal – scored by Jordan Nobbs – in Wednesday’s 6-0 humiliation of Group D rivals Scotland. “Germany have had it for years and the United States have it but it’s what England have lacked going into major tournaments for the last 10 years.”

Now the days of almost apologising for their presence at the top table are definitely over. “We have a different mentality,” Carney said. “Why shouldn’t we be confident going into games? We’ve got some excellent players.”

Such luminaries include Jodie Taylor, the Arsenal striker whose brilliant hat-trick crushed Scotland, Nobbs and Lucy Bronze, yet Mark Sampson’s squad seem formidably strong in all positions as they approach a potentially tricky game against fast-improving Spain – who beat Portugal 2-0 on Wednesday – in Breda on Sunday night.

“Spain are a top team but we’ve got to be confident,” Carney said. “There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance but we want to come home from Holland with the gold medal; that’s what this is all about. We’re going to pay the opposition respect but, if we play to the best of our ability, we believe we can win.”

The memory of Hope Powell’s England losing to Spain during a calamitous European Championship four years ago seems unlikely to spook Sampson’s class of 2017. “In 2013 we were in a very different place,” Carney said. “We’re fitter, faster and stronger now. Our game has moved on domestically and we’re all full-time professionals. We’re a different team with a different mentality. Spain like to play their tiki-taka football but Mark’s done his homework and the great thing about us is that we can play multiple styles of football. We’ll push Spain.”

After representing England in seven consecutive tournaments – and playing for GB in the 2012 Olympics – few players can offer better context and perspective than Carney. “My first major championships was in 2005, which makes me feel ancient. I’m really proud of playing in all the tournaments, yet I can have all the caps in the world but there’s no point if you don’t have a gold medal. I’d rather have one gold medal and 10 caps than 200 caps and no gold. It’s all about winning – and that’s what this team intends to do.”

A key characteristic of England’s progress is Sampson’s emphasis on the all-important human factor. “I think we’re enjoying it more because we not only have a great team but we also really care about each other,” Carney said. “We’ve been together a long time and we know everybody’s families and partners; it’s nice. We make a big effort to get to know each other and want each other to do well.

“Before coming on against Scotland I was sitting on the bench just buzzing for the girls; for Jodie to get the hat-trick, for Toni [Duggan] to get a goal and for Fran Kirby to just be out there. I’ve spent the last year watching Fran doing rehab exercises [following serious knee trouble] at Chelsea so it was fantastic to see her talent explode against Scotland. We’re a proper team.”

Comments are closed.