Roy Hodgson's coach Gary Neville has said the notion that England must always beat nations such as Italy is "arrogant" and "disrespectful" to such opposition and that a major dose of realism is required to dispel the expectation that the national team have to go close to winning every tournament they play in.
In his first newspaper interview since Hodgson's side lost on penalties to Cesare Prandelli's team in Kiev 22 days ago, Neville told i that those who had rounded on England for their possession levels in the tournament were ignoring the standard of the opposition. "I never saw an England team in the last 40 years that kept possession against teams like France, Italy, Brazil, Spain and Argentina," Neville said. "Wake up everybody!"
Though the possession level in the quarter-final was 36 per cent, Neville said Hodgson's instructions to the players had been to show ambition. "We didn't go out there and say: 'You know what we're going to do today? We're going to give the ball away and sit back for 80 minutes and defend.' That's not the intention or what we tried to do. It was 'stay on the ball, be on the ball, pass the ball'."
Neville, who was appointed to Hodgson's coaching staff on a four-year contract in May, said: "I played for England for a lot of years and wanted to keep the ball better, wanted to be more successful... But it's disrespectful to other nations and arrogant to just dismiss them and talk about 'oh, we are England, we talk about ourselves'. We have to see ourselves in the light of Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, Argentina, Brazil. In terms of tournaments and measuring ourselves, the measure of an England team this last 10 or 12 years has been mainly around quarter-finals. It tells you where we are at. We are in the top eight teams in the world. That's fact."
Neville added: "People try and change the world. What are we doing wrong? What should we be doing? Let's make everybody [Lionel] Messi. Let's make everybody Xavi. It happens."
The former Manchester United player, left with Hodgson, made a call for realism. "The idea you can change English football and the way a kid kicks a ball when he's three years of age, that's a 20- or 30-year project, that's not for the current England manager. That's a project for the people who design the game. We have our culture and the way that we are."