Women's World Cup 2019: England need 2015 spirit or there will be 'egg on our faces', warns Phil Neville

Lionesses head coach wants to recreate togetherness of four years ago

Mark Critchley
Saturday 08 June 2019 21:43
England v Scotland: Women's World Cup match preview

Phil Neville has warned his England players they risk going home with “egg on their faces” unless they can recreate the spirit and togetherness of their 2015 Women’s World Cup campaign.

Neville has made no secret of his desire to see the Lionesses crowned world champions in a month's time, nor has he played down expectations of a run into the latter stages of this tournament.

England were beaten semi-finalists in Canada four years ago, losing to eventual runners-up Japan courtesy of a late own goal. Following much progress in the time since, they have high hopes of going further in France.

A near-faultless qualification campaign, a SheBelieves Cup win in March, and a Fifa ranking of no. 3 in the world means that anything less than a place in the last four is likely to be viewed as a disappointment.

Neville is comfortable with such expectations, but he is wisely taking little for granted and wants to see his players rise to the occasion of representing their country at a World Cup finals.

“I think we've been handling those expectations for the last 12 months or probably since I came into the job," said Neville, who was appointed as Mark Sampson’s permanent successor in January of last year.

“We know and like the pressure being on us. We're not going to hide away from the fact that we want to come into this competition and do well. We know tomorrow we are the favourites for the game because of our world ranking, but we also know and have a lot of respect for the opposition.”

Neville added: "We want to recreate the spirit of the 2015 team. We didn't have the pressure then as we do now. If we want to be successful I want the togetherness and spirit of that team. If we don't we will end up with egg on our faces.”

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England start their campaign with questions over how exactly they will line up under Neville, who has not been afraid to rotate heavily between matches. Minor injuries to forward Toni Duggan and defender Demi Stokes may complicate matters further.

Neville claimed that by rotating his side, he has largely stuck to what worked for England under Sampson four years ago, and he admitted there will be changes to Sunday’s side for the meeting with Argentina - one of the tournament’s weakest teams - on Friday.

“From the minute I walked into the job I’ve been ruthless in the decisions I’ve made,” he said. “I’ve left a lot of my best players out in big games. People think I’ve rotated the team to keep people guessing and other teams guessing. I’ve rotated the team because I pick the best team to win every game.

“I don’t see us as having a strong eleven, I see us having a group of 23 players and when I took the job I said to everyone they’d all get opportunities. Hand on heart, the team I select tomorrow probably won’t be the team that plays against Argentina or Japan because we have a certain way of playing, a certain philosophy.”

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