England coach Phil Neville can’t wait for his side to get their teeth into Japan when the two teams meet in the Women’s World Cup tonight in a keenly anticipated game at the Allianz Riviera in Nice.
Not literally, you understand, but he did declare,
“I’ve got to be honest with you, I would bite your legs off to win”
when quizzed on his thoughts ahead of the clash.
His biting comments came as the former Manchester United and England defender was asked about the prospect of finishing as runners-up rather than winning Group D, given that it could mean a better draw thereafter. But he has reiterated the desire to top the table — actually, if the Lionesses don’t lose against Japan (who are the 2011 world champions) they will come up against one of the best third-place finishers in the last 16.
And when reminded that it also means England (who have already seen off Scotland and Argentina) could then face hosts France and holders the USA, he remained philosophical and he stated:
“My view is that we want to win seven games in this World Cup, no matter what route we take.”
The Lionesses are two points above second-placed Japan but if they are beaten by their opponents they will face tough tests in the following round in the shape of Holland or Canada. But Neville, who earned 59 caps for the Three Lions, is adamant and says he has his players’ mind focused on gaining a victory and dealing with the consequences of that win down the line. He added:
“We’ve got a long way to go. It start’s tonight and we are going out to win it with the strongest possible team. There were five or six permutations, now that’s been whittled down, and there are pitfalls in finishing first and second.”
Meanwhile, Scotland coach Shelley Kerr knows her side have an opportunity of reaching the last 16 by the route of being one of the best third-placed sides if they can overcome Argentina. The Scots go head to head with the South Americans at the Parc des Princes in Paris and striker Erin Cuthbert says she has her fingers crossed for a slice of luck to go with hard work.
“You can have all the tactics you want. But ultimately, it’s going to come down to small margins and pieces of individual brilliance to break them down. We’re under no illusions that Argentina are out here to beat us too and they’ll probably have the same perception that this game is the big one. So, we know it’s going to be hard, they know it’s going to be hard but ultimately we want to come out with all three points.”