England women's Laura Bassett reflects on crucial 2019 World Cup qualification

Laura Bassett does not expect England’s Lionesses to ease up against Kazakhstan on Tuesday – despite booking their place at next year’s World Cup last week.

Phil Neville’s side secured their passage to France next summer with a convincing 3-0 win over Wales at Rodney Parade on Friday.

Second half goals from Toni Duggan, Jill Scott and Nikita Parris were enough for the Lionesses to qualify with one game to spare.

But with competition for places at an all-time high and the desire to go one better than at the last World Cup and European Championships by reaching the final – Bassett believes England’s players will already have the tournament in France on their mind when they travel to Almaty to face bottom of the table Kazakhstan.

“I’m very confident with this England team,” said the defender, speaking at England’s national football training centre, St George’s Park, where she led an SSE Wildcats training session.

“We have some very, very talented players and I think we have some mentally strong players too.

“They know the challenge and they know what’s up for grabs.

“I’m really excited and confident about the Lionesses. The position that the England squad is in is really encouraging, the depth of pool of players that Phil Neville has got to choose from is really impressive with young players coming in performing well, along with some of the more experienced players playing well for their clubs.”

England’s squad has been bolstered by the return of defenders Steph Houghton and Alex Greenwood from injury and suspension respectively, and Bassett expressed the significance of both to the team.

She added: “Alex Greenwood and Steph Houghton are both really important, Alex has a lot of experience although she’s really young, what she’s been through in her career, she adds so much to the group.

“And Steph’s still the captain so her leadership and her experience and the way she gets on with the girls and motivates them, it’s always good for your team morale to be boosted by the type of people those two are.”

Having played in five international tournaments and earned 61 caps for England, Bassett emphasised the importance of English representation on the world stage to enhance the sport.

“It’s really important to qualify for a World Cup,” continued Bassett.

“It’s always special no matter whether this is your first time or you’ve done it eight or nine times, it’s always special for staff and players because everybody works so hard towards that aim.

“You can talk about the World Cup in France as much as you want but you have to take it step by step and get there first and qualify. So it’s really important, massive for all the girls.”

As the energy behind women’s football, SSE’s ambition is to support girls of all ages in England, helping them join in football from grassroots to the elite level. For more information on SSE’s sponsorships and activities visit sse.co.uk