Women's World Cup 2019: England will keep playing out from the back despite Steph Houghton mistake

Houghton error allowed Scotland back in to set up nervy finish

Mark Critchley
Monday 10 June 2019 18:30
England vs Scotland women's World Cup match has all women panel

Phil Neville has insisted that England will not continue to play out from the back, despite Steph Houghton’s error in Sunday’s 2-1 Women’s World Cup win over Scotland.

With 11 minutes remaining at the Allianz Riviera in Nice, Houghton’s misplaced pass allowed Lisa Evans to steal possession and set up Claire Emslie’s consolation goal.

The subject of England teams playing out of defence has been a hot topic of late, following John Stones’ struggles in the Nations League semi-final against the Netherlands.

Neville has transformed the Lionesses from a pragmatic side to possession-orientated one since taking charge and he reiterated his commitment to that approach on Sunday.

“There’s only one way we’re going to play,” he said. “It’s the only way we want our teams to play. We have to develop this system of play that is the right way to play football.

“We’re going to make mistakes. We play that open that in the first half, we had both full backs in wide positions, we had the whole of central midfield open but we trusted each other.”

Neville refused to criticise Houghton for her mistake, instead praising her and the rest of England’s players for having the courage to attempt riskier passes.

“We kept playing the ball into midfield and some of the combinations... we were three for three in midfield, but you would not have thought that with the combinations that we had,” he added.

“Yes, we gave a ball away for the goal but we were trying to do the right thing, we were trying to play passes into midfield. I cannot criticise them for that.”

Neville reserved special praise for Jill Scott, the 32-year-old midfielder who dictated the play against Scotland, particularly while England were dominant in the first half.

Scott is England’s oldest midfielder at this World Cup but arguably their most important and Neville believes she has plenty more to give beyond this tournament.

“She can play until she’s 40,” he said. “Her and Lucy Bronze are the quickest on the bleep test, quickest on the fitness test. She never misses a training session. If you ask her to miss a training session, she goes absolutely mad at you.

“She’s built like a marathon runner, that’s why she’s so fit, and I think 32 is now a young age for a midfield player.

“Yes, there will be times we have to rest her but her energy levels are frightening. She’s one of the best physical stats we’ve got.”

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