England boss Phil Neville believes his side’s performance deserved a result after their 2-1 defeat to Brazil at the Riverside.
The Lionesses’ World Cup homecoming was cruelly spoiled by Brazil in front of 29,238 fans in Middlesbrough, Debinha capitalising twice on defensive mistakes to steer the visitors to victory, with substitute Beth England’s header – her first England goal – coming too late for the hosts to make a comeback.
Debinha scored the opener just four minutes after the break when Mary Earps fumbled her header on the line before doubling her tally on 67 minutes when her deflected shot looped over the stranded Lionesses keeper.
There were certainly some bright sparks for the Lionesses with the likes of Beth Mead and Jodie Taylor getting themselves into good positions in front of goal, while centre-back pairing Leah Williamson and Steph Houghton made sure Brazil did not trouble the hosts for long spells.
England were left to rue missed first-half opportunities but according to Neville, their performance is not a major cause for concern.
“They didn’t deserve to lose that’s for sure,” said Neville.
“We got punished for two lapses in concentration when the game should have been dead and buried.
“Things probably aren’t going for us the way they were 12 months ago, but that’s football.
“What I would say is I can look my players in the eye, and they can look each other in the eye and say they played a really good game of football.”
Neville’s Lionesses are now without a win in five games, four of the last five fixtures having ended in defeat for the World Cup semi-finalists.
Having beaten Brazil in friendly a year ago, and in February at the SheBelieves Cup, England still seem to be suffering from a World Cup hangover.
Yet Neville does not appear to be worried, insisting, despite the recent run of defeats, that his side are still playing at the level of a ‘top team’,
“When we went to Norway [a 2-1 loss] and Belgium [a 3-3 draw], we looked after the game and knew that was nowhere near the level this team should be playing at,” added Neville.
“What I’ve just seen is we’re at the level of a top, top team.
“We kept going right until the very end and it was some of the best football I’ve seen us play for a long time.
“We’ve got to stick together and believe in what we’re doing is right.”
Neville will be hoping his team can get back to winning ways when they face Portugal on Tuesday night before the Lionesses host Germany at Wembley in November with 75,000 tickets having already been sold.
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