- Phil Neville outlines how England can topple USA
- He hails the French fans adopting the Lionesses as their second team
By Laure Jameswith England
Phil Neville is finally at the point he’s spent months wishing he could fast-forward to. The 42-year-old has guided Englandinto a mouth-watering FIFA Women’s World Cup™ semi-final against defending champions USA.
“There are not many vulnerabilities in the USA but at this stage, with the four best teams in the world, you are talking about 0.5 or one per cent extra where you think you’ll gain an advantage,” Neville told FIFA.
“You focus on yourself and not what they can do because if we get our game-plan right – tactically, physically – and our players are playing at the top of their game with confidence and belief, then we have a good chance of winning this football match. But we have to match and better them.
“I would say it’s the week I’ve prepared for, the week I had planned for, the week that, when I was given the job by the FA, the vision was to get to this point and then deliver. And I have got to say, for the last three months, I’ve wanted to forward-wind my life to this point.”
This fixture will throw up some fascinating battles, especially down England’s right where Nikita Parris, who has been rehearsing penalties, and Lucy Bronze are likely to be called on to contain Crystal Dunn and Megan Rapinoe.
Can Bronze’s undeniable steel nullify the on-fire Rapinoe? Elsewhere, will Steph Houghton and Millie Bright cope with Alex Morgan’s pace?
Jill Scott found herself playing higher up against Norway yet her penchant for tracking back could prove key against USA. Scott may have scored the fastest goal of France 2019 but Tuesday’s opponents have scored in the first 12 minutes of all five of their appearances.
“They do power plays, where they come out of the traps and for the first 15 minutes they’ll try to overpower you with their physicality,” Neville said. “We are aware of that.”
Neville believes a surprise factor can help England get past the semi-finals where they fell 2-1 to Japan at Canada 2015.
“The French public have been great,” said the former Manchester United and England player. “For me as a manager, they’ve supported the England team brilliantly. We’ve been their second team, that’s how I’ve felt about the support we’ve had from the north and the south of France.
“Against Norway we just focused on our play and being ruthless in the final third. Our concentration levels were probably the best they have been in the competition.
“Having a settled back four has helped. The work that everyone is doing in front is really good as well. Clean sheets, as we know, win you tournaments and if we keep another two clean sheets we will be World Cup winners.”