Quickfire first-half goals from Jodie Taylor and Lucy Bronze lifted England to a 2-1 win over tournament hosts Canada to set up a last four clash against defending champions Japan on Wednesday.
Canada’s star striker Christine Sinclair pulled one back shortly before half-time, following a rare blunder by goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, but England had an impressive rearguard after the interval and never really seemed in danger of conceding again at a packed out BC Place in Vancouver.
It showed tremendous character from England, who had lost their three previous World Cup quarter-finals, and head coach Sampson was understandably keen to highlight their efforts.
“What a show in resilience and character from the team,” he said. “Huge credit to Canada, I thought they were outstanding, the supporters made this an absolute cauldron.
“But this team just won’t give in; I don’t know where they found their energy, I don’t know how deep they dug today but it was just there and we got ourselves through and I can’t be any prouder of my staff or my players.
“Every single England player ran through brick walls for this team. We knew how hard it would be, we knew the quality opponent, we had to go to that level, we had to get to levels we’ve never been before and every single one of the one to 23 dug so deep to get us into this semi-final.”
Sampson is relishing the chance to take on Japan, too, adding: “Bring them on!”
England were forced into a substitution early into the second half when Siobhan Chamberlain was thrown into the action after Bardsley appeared to sustain an eye injury.
While Sampson did not confirm exactly what caused the complaint, he was quick to praise Chamberlain’s display
The 32-year-old Welshman said: “I don’t know the exact incident but I know it’s enough that it’s (the eye) closing up, so huge credit to Siobhan.
“What a performance from Siobhan, to step off that bench, 30 seconds later kick it, catch and save just shows how together this group is, how willing they all are to put a shift in from the bench or from the start.”
Taylor put England ahead in the 11th minute after capitalising on an error from Lauren Sesselmann’s slip before Lucy Bronze, the match winner against Norway, doubled their advantage with a header that went in off the bar three minutes later.
It was Taylor’s first start at the World Cup following an injury and she was delighted to contribute.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “I’m about to cry, it’s so amazing. To start a game, score and help us win and make history with England has been my goal for four or five years, it’s just amazing.
“We 100 per cent believe in each other, there’s a great feeling around the squad, it’s just amazing.”
Canada head coach John Herdman, who hails from Consett in County Durham, was inconsolable.
“We did our best but it just wasn’t good enough, we wanted to go all the way for you,” he said.
“We’re gutted, we’re absolutely gutted.
“We just made mistakes, they caught us on a set play and an error, but we’ve given it everything, we’ve given our best tonight, that’s all I can ask of this group, I don’t think anyone hid tonight from their responsibility.
“This has been a three years in the making and I can’t believe it’s ended like that. We could have done this and we’re sorry.”
Herdman admitted he will have to do some soul searching in the coming days, adding: “Were some of the tactics wrong? I don’t know, I’ll go and scratch my head now, I’ve got a couple of bloody weeks off, I didn’t want this.”