England’s defence of the tournament got off to the worst possible start in Orlando as two second-half goals condemned the visitors to their sixth defeat in nine games.
The world champions, who knocked the Lionesses out of the World Cup semi-finals last year, took the lead through Christen Press on 53 minutes before Carli Lloyd sealed the result two minutes later.
And after being outplayed and outfought by the much superior hosts, Neville insisted his team are still a long way away from knocking the USA off their perch as the world’s best.
“I don’t see a team that lacked confidence in terms of the way we want to play, I see a team trying to play the right way and it feels as if we are so close but yet so far at this moment,” he said
“We had chances in the game, opportunities to be ruthless, and we didn’t really commit to it. The first goal was a wondergoal, I was stood behind it, but the second was a lapse in concentration. We just need to start having that little bit of ruthlessness.
“It’s that ruthlessness that sets the best teams above the rest and we need to develop that. Until we start beating these teams consistently and challenging against them, then it’s still a big obstacle we have got to overcome.”
Neville made five changes to the starting line-up that edged out the Czech Republic 3-2 last time out, with 19-year-old Manchester City forward Lauren Hemp given her first start.
And Hemp was one of few bright sparks for England, almost setting up Jill Scott in the first half with a dangerous flick-on, while Nikita Parris also had a half-chance for the visitors.
But while it was a humbling night for England, Hemp said she enjoyed every minute of the game as she soaked up the atmosphere around the Exploria Stadium in front of 16,000 supporters.
“It was a really tough match and obviously getting my first start against the best team the world is massive,” said Hemp.
“It’s these games that I want to be playing in, so I loved every minute of it and grew in confidence as the game went on. Now we need to go back to training and recover.
“That’s probably the biggest game I’ve played in, standing out in that national anthem with all the fireworks going off.
“It’s a moment where I was like: ‘Wow, this is what international football is really like.’ I’d love to be in more occasions like that and be one of the stars in the game.”
The Lionesses will now turn their attention to their second match of the SheBelieves Cup against Japan, ranked 10th in the world, who they face in New Jersey on Sunday.
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