Neville plays down rivalry as England prepare to face Argentina at Women’s World Cup

Phil Neville does not believe the rivalry which exists between England and Argentina in the men’s game will have any bearing on the Lionesses’ World Cup clash on Friday evening.

However, Neville is expecting a real battle against the South Americans, who surprised many observers when they held Japan to a goalless draw in their opening match.

Meetings between the two in the men’s game have thrown up a number of memorable – and controversial – moments over the years, but Neville told a press conference: “They haven’t got the history and the rivalry on the women’s side that the men have got.

David Beckham (left) was sent off against Argentina in the World Cup of 1998
David Beckham (left) was sent off against Argentina in the World Cup of 1998 (Adam Butler/PA)

“It would be silly for me to start talking about Michael Owen’s goal (World Cup 1998), the David Beckham sending-off (in the same game) or the ‘Hand of God’ goal (by Diego Maradona in World Cup 1986) because it actually doesn’t make reference to the history or rivalry on our side.

“This is quite new, a game we haven’t played that often. This is a great footballing nation we are playing, a very proud nation.

“We are playing against a team with great history and there are parallels with both, men’s and women’s football. There are similarities in the way they play.

“They have grown up playing on the streets, fighting for everything. This is what this Argentina team has got.”

Neville is “under no illusions” as to the test his side face at Le Havre’s Stade Oceane.

Neville, who was disappointed with a short spell of his side’s opening win against Scotland, said: “It (Argentina’s draw with Japan) didn’t really surprise me.

“The games that we’ve studied Argentina we don’t think we’ve seen them as organised and determined as they were against Japan.

“We’re under no illusions as to how tough this game will be. Man-to-man marking, aggressive and we need to show the same quality we did against Scotland to get a result.”

England won their opening game against Scotland
England won their opening game against Scotland (John Walton/PA)

When asked how his attackers will approach the game, Neville added: “We were planning to play against a team sitting back and defending a bit deeper than Scotland.

“They know they will be playing in tight spaces, limited room, and we’ve worked hard on our final third play in the last few days.

“They are strong defensively and it’s up to us to break that defence down. We know we must defend well as well – their two best players are attacking players.

“We must make sure our players in the final third are relaxed and free to express themselves.”