Women’s World Cup 2019: This England side live and die by the standards they set themselves

Exclusive column: The Independent’s Women’s World Cup columnist analyses the Lionesses’ mentality and morale ahead of facing Argentina

Izzy Christiansen
Olympique Lyon player
Friday 14 June 2019 09:13
Women’s World Cup in numbers

The nature of a tournament means you should never look back. The time in-between games is precious and England won’t have dwelled on the match against Scotland. Everyone saw Phil Neville giving the girls an animated team-talk on the pitch after the full-time whistle. He always demands more and the team know they should have kept up their ruthless streak in the second-half.

One of the great things about this England side is that nobody is shy to talk about our standards. We don’t use them as guides, that’s what we live and die by and that culture is part of what can make the team so successful. If things aren’t going well, we can call each other out so whatever Phil said in the huddle, it doesn’t knock your confidence, it gives you a boost.

I’ve spoken to a few of the girls since the match and, of course, they were irritated about conceding the goal, but the morale is very high right now. Yes, the penalty was harsh on Scotland and I’m not a fan of VAR, but we undoubtedly deserved to win and the first hurdle can often feel the highest. The girls just had too much for Scotland in every area of the pitch and they got the three points. That’s what matters and then you can move on.

The day after the game, you have a recovery session and spend 45 minutes reviewing the game, identifying where the gameplan was and wasn’t exploited. The lull in the second half can be positive in the long run because it will only have added to the girls’ hunger and steeled their focus. If they’d played exceptionally for 90 minutes, they might not have got that jolt and a tournament is always about peaking at the right time.

What’s important is that the moment you leave the meeting room, it’s done and dusted. The tournament format is so relentless, you’ve got to savour the breathing space and find a way to relax amid the hysteria of it all.

For some of the girls, that will have meant going to the fan zone and totally immersing themselves in the local fever. For others, it can be about getting as far away from that as possible. As professionals, everyone knows what works best for them and Phil has always had a great understanding of that. Whether it’s half-a-day or just nipping out for a coffee, he’ll always give you time to do that and it’s little things like that which keep spirits up.

Nikita Parris was in exceptional form against Scotland (Getty)

We all know what Argentina will bring. They’re going to be cagey, set up in banks and park the bus and we’ve got to be prepared for that. We can’t just focus on ourselves. I think Fran Kirby will be key in the No 10 role because she’s got that creative spark where she’s capable of unpicking the tightest-knit defence at any moment.

Nikita Parris was fantastic against Scotland, she was so sharp and totally nerveless, and she has that ability to attack a player one-on-one and that becomes even more important when the opposition is determined to shut you out.

Ellen White was an unsung hero of England’s win against Scotland (AFP/Getty)

Ellen White was an unsung hero of the Scotland game, not just because of her goal, but the way she pressed from the front. As a player, when you see someone in front of you running 30-yards to close a centre-back down, it hauls the whole side forwards and I think she’s put herself in the shop window to hold down that place.

I’ve got no doubt the girls will do the business against Argentina and there’ll be no looking back.

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