After months of buildup, England and Scotland will face off in Utrecht on Wednesday night as Group D joins the Euro 2017 party that is now already well under way.
With England expected to challenge for the overall spoils that come with tournament glory, a good start is critical toward a smooth path out of the group, but a stubborn and determined Scotland side stand in the Lionesses’ way.
England hasn’t won the first game of a major tournament under either Mark Sampson or his predecessor Hope Powell since the nation hosted the Euros in 2005, and the 34-year-old head coach is keen to put that run to an end.
“Every game here is a big game,” said Sampson. “It’s a small tournament and a small turnaround between matches so finding a way to win will be important.
“But we have to play the opponents that are in front of us and tomorrow it’s Scotland that stand in our way of a win.”
With an in-form and exciting Spain side lying in wait a few days down the line, a negative result will make England’s chances of topping Group D much more difficult, but the boss is sure the right result will come if the team perform.
“We have to navigate this one and find a solution to ensure we come out on top. We have to get that performance level right; if we do, then the result will take care of itself.
“If we don’t get the performance right, we have to find a way to win because this isn’t an easy group.”
Sampson did confirm defender Casey Stoney will miss the match against Scotland but could be in contention for Sunday’s match against Spain in Breda.
For fellow defender Steph Houghton, there will be a number of familiar faces lining up in blue at the other end of the Stadion Galgenwaard when the teams walk out on Wednesday night.
While her Manchester City center back partner Jennifer Beattie will miss the tournament through injury, Houghton will be tasked with combating the threat of her other City teammate Jane Ross.
But the captain doesn’t believe it offers her or her teammates an advantage when it comes to walking away with the three points.
“I know what Jane likes to do and I know all her strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately they know all about us too,” said Houghton.
“They play against us as much as we play against them; we know Scotland have big players who can change games but we have to control what we can control, focus on ourselves, and make sure we come back with the three points.”