Lionesses need to quickly rediscover that winning mentality - Sue Smith

As a professional footballer, every time I took to the field I just wanted to win no matter how, especially if I was wearing the Three Lions.

England’s women have not done that for a while, and I worry it is harming their chances in the upcoming tournaments.

Either side of last weekend, they suffered their eighth and ninth defeat in 14 matches. They need to start beating good teams or their confidence will be gone.

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The new players in the squad have not got used to consistently winning internationals.

England’s Leah Williamson shows her frustration during the women’s international friendly with Canada. Picture: PA

If I was in the squad I would be hating the fact they keep getting beaten and I know a lot of players would be saying the same.

We spoke to Wales’s Gemma Grainger, who has just made her debut as a senior international manager, on the Sky Sports Women’s Football Show last night and she insisted it was much more about looking at the performances and the players, and being right for major tournaments. England’s interim manager, Hege Riise – who is also the Team GB manager at this summer’s Olympics – is clearly seeing this as a project.

If I knew I was only taking charge for a short period as Riise is before handing England over to Sarina Wiegman, I would just want to win as many games as possible. She is being really selfless and hopefully people see that if Wiegman has success.

When Riise first came in she said she just wanted England to be braver on the ball, always looking to play forwards. She felt sometimes England might have been a bit safe.

You could see the players trying to do that but there was no ruthlessness. The only goal was a penalty against France.

It is okay being more creative but they have to finish chances off and defensively they have to stop conceding so easily. Against Canada they were more individual errors, against France it was collective – their shape was not quite right and they were not very good in transition so when they lost the ball it was difficult.

She also said it was about instilling the belief and confidence that England can win a major tournament but you only get belief and confidence in a way of playing by winning.

Is she doing the right thing? Ask me after the Olympics!

If Team GB win it or go very far in it you would say she has done exactly the right thing but if they lose the first game, you worry they might be taking a losing mentality into the tournament.

The days between the France and Canada games would have been quiet with everyone thinking about their performance and the team’s. Sometimes when the team wins, you forget your own performance and everyone is on a high.

If they had scraped 1-0 wins against France and Canada without playing as bravely would that have done them more good?

Only two or three England players stood out as having to go with Riise to the Olympics. Lauren Hemp was brilliant, coming on against France, changing the game and winning the penalty. Georgia Stanway showed she can play a deeper midfield role and although I have seen Fran Kirby play better for Chelsea, she also has to go.

Hopefully the players understand they are in a process.

Perhaps they can take heart from Northern Ireland’s success story after deservedly beating Ukraine home and away in a play-off to qualify for next summer’s European Championships, which will feature games in South Yorkshire.

Northern Ireland lost 4-0 in a friendly against Ukraine in March last year and when they drew them in the play-offs they were all celebrating, saying it was exactly the game they wanted. I could not understand it.

Their thinking was they knew how they play now and what they needed to do to beat them.

Their manager, Kenny Shiels, has clearly instilled something. There were no excuses, the semi-professionals went out there and did the business against a much higher-ranked side. They had confidence Shiels would come up with a winning strategy.

Northern Ireland played the same way against England last month and lost 6-1 but used it as a building block for Ukraine.

Riise commands huge respect having won the Olympics, World Cup and European Championships as a player and had a top career as a coach, so perhaps we just have to trust her.

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