Scotland fought back after the interval, however, and Claire Emslie’s late consolation ensured for a nervy finish. England appeared to tire after half time and Neville admitted his side could improve.
“We set standards and the players have to keep meeting them,” he said. “We cannot drop below those standards. We have to keep being ruthless. It taught us that every game is going to be hard but I was pleased with the result.
So, what did Neville and the Lionesses learn from their opening group stage win?
Much promise in Bronze and Parris partnership
If England are to live up to the lofty expectations that they enter this tournament with, then two of their most naturally-gifted players must make the most of their understanding down the right wing. Lucy Bronze and Parris did just that against Scotland, particularly in the opening 45 minutes.
Scotland’s left-back Nicola Docherty was terrorised by the pair, even after she had conceded the early penalty. Bronze and Parris over and under-lapped to create the fluency and unpredictability that England’s attack can sometimes lack. Their highlight, though, came inside their own half.
With the ball about to trickle out of play, Bronze played a one-two with skipper Steph Houghton and released the ball down the line for Parris, who reverse nutmegged Docherty and countered. This spectacular move was the best of the afternoon and England can be confident of seeing more of the same on their right-hand side.
White the woman in possession
Phil Neville had several major pre-match decisions to make but the biggest of them all arguably came up front. Should he start Jodie Taylor, the Golden Boot winner at England’s last major tournament, or White, who was preferred for the majority of the SheBelieves Cup campaign?
White ultimately got the nod and was arguably England’s best player in Nice, with only Jill Scot’s dominant midfield display rivalling her energetic performance up front. White scored England’s second, saw another ruled out and forced two excellent saves from Scotland goalkeeper Lee Alexander.
The timing of her runs could improve. Both disallowed goals were due to White straying offside in the build-up. But her positioning and ability to find pockets of space in dangerous positions were a large part of why England won. Taylor’s chance may come against a weak Argentina on Friday but White staked a strong claim to be first-choice going forward.
Second-half slump could be avoided
And yet, despite the three points and a handful of impressive performances, much of the post-match analysis was downbeat. Alex Scott, in her punditry role on BBC Sport, was forthright. “Teams will be looking at this and will they be worried about this England performance? I don’t think so.”
As Scott would point out, this is the first tournament since 2007 that England have played after a winter club season. Nine months of competitive football, combined with the humidity, appeared to take its toll on England. The sense of dominance and control was lost. Scotland were slowly allowed back into the contest.
Neville demanded that his players start quickly on Sunday and he is likely to do the same before the remaining group games against two teams susceptible to intensive pressing. But if England can learn to pick their moments, rather than spend their energy in one go, they may be able to avoid any more late scares.
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