England boss Phil Neville has stressed both the importance of Saturday’s World Cup third place play-off against Sweden and the need for future improvement.
The Lionesses take on the Swedes for bronze at Nice’s Allianz Riviera four days after the dramatic 2-1 semi-final defeat against holders the United States in Lyon.
When asked at his pre-match press conference on Friday about his likely approach to selection for the game, boss Neville said: “It is full squad, strongest team.
“Obviously we can’t play Millie Bright because she is suspended (after being sent off against the US), but we want to win this game.
“I want to send a message to my players that this game is important. We do have certain positions that we will need to freshen up in, but my players know this game is one we want to win.
“We want to go away from this World Cup with something to show for the hard work we have put in. Also, six wins, one defeat sounds better than five wins and two defeats.
“I want to be laying on a sunbed next week happy that we have finished the tournament well and not finish on two defeats. So we’re picking the strongest team to win, the players I feel will have enough to beat the Swedish team.”
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) July 5, 2019
England have lost in the semi-finals of the last three major tournaments. Four years ago, they followed up a 2-1 defeat against Japan in what was their first World Cup last-four match by beating Germany to claim bronze.
Over the next two years, a Great Britain team set to be managed by Neville will take part in the Tokyo Olympics, before England hosts Euro 2021.
Asked how important it was to win a major tournament, Neville said: “It’s fundamental.
“We’ve had a lot of people over the last few days and weeks telling us about inspiring, but I actually think the real inspiration is by winning the gold, standing on that platform with the trophy in your hands. That’s the ultimate for me and we’ll continue to strive for that.
“We have a young team in terms of how many years they have been professionals, they are learning every single day and we have to keep educating them in terms of actually they do not know their capabilities yet.
“It’s my job and my staff’s job to make sure they’re aware there’s an extra 20, 30, 40 per cent.
“We need to keep pushing them and over the next two years we have an opportunity to be successful, but the effort has to go up. We’re a team that liked to do 12 reps – now I think we have to do 20, we really do. I think it has to be that much of a push.
“Because I think we’re all sick of losing in semi-finals, of feeling unlucky, of people applauding us for finishing third or fourth – that’s not being disrespectful, that is just the truth, and it hurts.”
Tuesday’s match saw England have a penalty saved for the third time in the tournament, Steph Houghton taking that spot-kick after Nikita Parris had taken the previous two.
Neville said following the defeat that his penalty takers were determined with the use of an “in-depth practice and analysis process”.
England’s Ellen White, who scored her sixth goal of the tournament in the game, is tied with US forward Alex Morgan in the race for the Golden Boot.
It appears on Saturday any penalty duties prior to a shoot-out will not fall White’s way, with Neville saying: “I don’t think she’ll be on penalties tomorrow, if she’s on the pitch.
“We’ve got to back the process that we’ve spent a lot of time on. When we select the team, if she’s the best player on the pitch to take the penalty she will take it, but my gut feeling is there will probably be one or two players in front of her who have got a better record and want to take the penalty.”
Sweden, who are ranked ninth in the world, six places below England, suffered a 1-0 extra-time defeat to Holland in their semi-final. They beat Neville’s side 2-0 in a friendly last November.