Neville welcomes pressure as England begin Women’s World Cup campaign

Neville welcomes pressure as England begin Women’s World Cup campaign

Phil Neville says England welcome the expectation on them as they head into the first match of their Women’s World Cup campaign, Sunday’s encounter with Scotland.

The Lionesses’ Group D opener sees them face the Scots at Nice’s Allianz Riviera.

Boss Neville was asked during his pre-match press conference at the stadium about England being favourites for the contest and seen as one of the contenders for the tournament.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 vs 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿, 5pm ko BST, @BBCOne

— Lionesses (@Lionesses) June 8, 2019

And he said: “I think we’ve been handling that type of expectation for the last 12 months, or probably since I came into the job (in January 2018).

“We know and like the pressure being on us. We’re not going to hide away from the fact that we want to come to this competition and do well.”

England are ranked third in the world, 17 places higher than Scotland, who are at a finals of the competition for the first time.

Neville, whose side will also face Argentina and Japan in Group D, added: “We know tomorrow we are probably the favourites for the game because of our world ranking, but we also know and have huge respect for the opposition.

“We’ve watched a lot of them, I’ve watched a lot of their individuals play, I’m a big admirer of their manager (Shelley Kerr).

“Probably, if you are thinking about our games in the group stages, this is our toughest game by far. I think Scotland can go a long way in the competition with the quality they have got.”

England thrashed Scotland 6-0 when the teams last played each other, at Euro 2017.

England captain Steph Houghton said at Saturday’s press conference: “I think looking at the Euro 2017 game they were hit with a lot of injuries to key players (Kim Little and Jen Beattie were ruled out of the tournament by injury) and they’ve got those players back now.

“They’ve grown a lot over the last two years. They’ve qualified for their first World Cup, they’ve beaten Brazil (1-0 in April). We know they’ve improved as a team.”

Phil Neville and Steph Houghton face the media ahead of England's Women's World Cup opener
Phil Neville and Steph Houghton face the media ahead of England’s Women’s World Cup opener (John Walton/PA)

England, under Mark Sampson, reached the semi-finals of that tournament, having come third at Canada 2015 – their best Women’s World Cup performance.

And Neville said: “We want to recreate the spirit of the 2015 team. They went to the World Cup as massive underdogs, probably didn’t have the expectation that this team has now, probably didn’t have the pressure that this team does now.

“But the spirit and togetherness of that team… If we want to be successful, I want the togetherness and spirit of the team of 2015, because if we have that then I’m almost certain that we will be successful.

“If we don’t then we will end up with egg on our faces, and that is the challenge for us.”

Toni Duggan is expected to be fit to face Scotland
Toni Duggan is expected to be fit to face Scotland (Nick Potts/PA)

England forward Toni Duggan (thigh) and defender Demi Stokes (knee) will undergo fitness tests ahead of the match and Neville said he was confident both would be fit for selection.

He also said he expects the team he names on Sunday will be different to those for the Argentina and Japan matches.

Towards the end of the press conference, Neville was told by one questioner that the perception of British football in France was that it was “based on fighting, impact, intensity”.

And he said: “I think your image is wrong to be honest.

“I don’t want to be insulting to anyone. I think our WSL (Women’s Super League) is better than the French league, I think our style of football is really good, I don’t think it is all about kick and rush, and hopefully you’ll see that tomorrow night.”