England vs Sweden: Phil Neville criticised for calling Women's World Cup third-place playoff 'nonsense'

England manager clarified his comments in post-match press conference

Mark Critchley@mjcritchley
Saturday 06 July 2019 19:00
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Phil Neville has defended his decision to call the Women’s World Cup third-place play-off ”a nonsense game”, despite criticism of his comments after England’s defeat to Sweden.

England’s tournament ended in disappointment on Saturday as they lost 2-1 in Nice to their fellow beaten semi-finalists, four days after a defeat to the United States.

Two early goals by Kosovare Asllani and Sofia Jakobsson proved enough for Sweden to earn the bronze medal, despite Fran Kirby’s first-half response.

“Well done to Sweden but it is a nonsense game,” Neville told BBC Sport after the final whistle. “We are probably showing in those first 20 minutes the disappointment we felt from the USA game. We came here to win it, not finish fourth.”

Those comments proved unpopular with former England international Siobhan Chamberlain, who was part of the squad which finished third at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada, under Neville’s predecessor Mark Sampson.

“Try telling the 23 players thought went to Canada that a bronze medal match is a ‘nonsense game’,” Chamberlain tweeted. “Winning a medal at a @FIFAWWC is a great achievement and I guarantee you that every player out there today wanted a medal just as much!”

Sampson himself liked Chamberlain’s tweet.

When asked in his post-match press conference whether he wanted to clarify his comments, Neville said: “I do. People can dramatise things. It’s important we get the facts.

“We came to this tournament to win gold. Throughout my life winning is all that matters, not finishing fourth, third, second. My players feel exactly the same as me.

“We came to this tournament to finish first. A third or fourth place game, we’ve not disrespected it. We wanted to win more than anything. But we wanted to win gold. That’s why I said it’s a nonsense.

“2015, we won bronze with magnificent performances, a manager that was great and players that were great. We celebrated and we applauded. It’s now 2019. We wanted gold.

“The hurt in dressing room is because we wanted gold, not bronze. Me, more than anyone, and my players more than any people have been hurting.

“We had it on our screensavers on all our phones. It was a vision that we had, wanting to win gold.

“Accepting second best for this set of players and me is not something we’re going to do. I’m not disrespecting anyone, I’m talking about how we felt as a group.

“We came here for gold and we didn’t achieve that. That is sport. Nobody remembers the losers, they just remember the winners. We want to be winners and eventually I think we will be.”

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