England not far behind Barcelona in terms of playing out from the back – Duggan

Toni Duggan believes Phil Neville’s England are “not far behind” what she sees at Barcelona in terms of playing out from the back.

Forward Duggan, scorer of 22 goals in 72 England appearances, joined Barca from Manchester City two years ago.

The 27-year-old – who is set to be fit for the Women’s World Cup clash against Japan on Wednesday after sitting out England’s first two games due to a thigh issue – said of Neville’s side: “We’re playing out from the back and Barcelona have been doing it for many, many years.

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“They’ve been doing it since they were babies, so it’s so natural for them, and we’re not far behind.

“I think that’s the way Phil wants us to play. Obviously he’s been over in Spain as well and probably robbed a few ideas from Valencia (where he was on the coaching staff in 2015-16) and brought them to us.

“The girls are so confident now in playing out from the back. They are really brave and confident getting on the ball compared to maybe four or five years ago, where it wasn’t in our mindset to do that.”

Neville’s predecessor, Mark Sampson’s England achieved their best performance at a Women’s World Cup, coming third in the 2015 tournament in Canada and reached the semi-finals of Euro 2017 in Holland.

Glasgow City v Barcelona – UEFA Women’s Champions League – Round of Sixteen – Second Leg – Petershill Park
Barcelona’s Toni Duggan is comfortable on the ball (Graham Stuart/PA)

On the difference between Sampson and Neville’s styles, Duggan said: “Each manager is going to bring in their own philosophy.

“We were super successful under Mark Sampson because probably teams didn’t expect us to play the way we played. We were so direct and we played to certain people’s strengths on the team.

“Then Phil’s come in with his own philosophy and that’s going to suit different individuals. That’s football, that’s natural. But it’s not to say we are going to be more or less successful under Phil than we were under Mark.”

Duggan also stressed it is not the case that the current side are “never going to do a long ball”.

“Football is transitioning. I think everyone is trying to play out from the back now, and I think we’re doing well at it,” Duggan said.

“The way the girls train, the amount of passes they put in and how comfortable we are compared to four or five years ago, we’ve come a long, long way.

“It doesn’t mean that because we are playing out from the back we’re never going to do a long ball because we have great players who can make runs in behind, and we have speed and pace. It’s just about finding that balance.”

The key figure linking Barcelona’s men’s team, Manchester City’s and a successful passing style is, of course, Pep Guardiola – and Duggan has spoken of her admiration for the 48-year-old.

“I’m interested in him a lot,” she said.

“When I worked with him at City, whenever I met him, he was a lovely person. I just kind of wanted to sit down with him and talk football but I thought I’d never get away from him.

“He was so nice, so complimentary of the women’s team, and the first day that he was there and he was announced to all the fans, he took his time out to speak with us – he was really a gentleman.

“I think at Barcelona the more talk is about (Johan) Cryuff, the success that he had, and then obviously Pep followed on.

“At every football club, there’s going to be legends and they’re going to be spoken about forever and ever, and especially those two, and what they’ve achieved in the game and the styles and the way that they’ve done it, it’s really important.

“I’m very fortunate to have worked at two unbelievable clubs, Manchester City and Barcelona, and I feel like I’ve really changed the way I look at football from being around and in those environments, so I feel really privileged.”

England face Japan in Nice in their final Group D game having already secured a place in the last 16, after beating Scotland 2-1 and Argentina 1-0, and looking to seal top spot in the pool.