"We will enjoy tonight but tomorrow it's back to hard work," said England manager Mark Sampson as his side booked their place at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup with a commanding performance.
First-half goals from Karen Carney, Eniola Aluko, Laura Bassett and Lianne Sanderson set up a comfortable second period and a 4-0 victory over Wales that maintains the team's perfect record in qualification. They have won nine out of nine ahead of their final outing in Group 6 in Montenegro next month and will begin their Canada 2015 warm-up by playing Germany at Wembley on 23 November.
"I have to give great credit to the players," a proud Sampson said. "We have a talented group of players, a group that want to play for the team and each other. The first half was really pleasing for me. The players showed their experience and maturity. But we will continue and build on this momentum. We want to finish the campaign with a 100% record."
Sampson's joy was echoed by Sanderson, who admitted the euphoria of confirming a place in Canada next summer had not quite sunk in. "It feels a bit surreal but I hope we can go there and win it!" said the forward. "Tonight shows how far we have come in a short space of time under Mark. We're not going to get carried away. There's so much competition for places now and that's a great thing. We all help each. We're together as a team."
The result completed the double over Wales following a 2-0 victory last October, but it may have been bittersweet for Sampson, the popular Welshman who has achieved instant success as England boss. "I also have to give huge credit to the staff who were in a difficult position when I came in," he stressed. "They have supported the team and we have produced some fantastic performances. Overall it's been a huge team effort and I'm really proud of everyone involved."
England have an unassailable eight-point cushion at the group summit but it is all to play immediately beneath them: Wales are three points clear of Ukraine, who have a game in hand. The pair meet on 17 September. "The first half was extremely disappointing," conceded Wales manager Jarmo Matikainen. "We will look at the positives of the second half, but we haven't played enough games against the top teams when there are things at stake. We will be ready next time. We have got to get a result from Ukraine – that has not changed."
One positive for Wales was the attendance of 3,581 in Cardiff, a record for a women's international in the principality. But the night belonged to England, and the focus now turns to Canada. "We are obviously excited about the finals," said Sampson. "We've got players who are hungry to get better, and we have a great team ethic."
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.