England boss Phil Neville is under no illusion of the task ahead. And he says the animated conversations with his charges now have to be turned into polished performances as England bid for FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 glory.
The Lionesses go into Sunday’s mouth-watering clash with Scotland in buoyant mood — despite a recent 1-0 defeat to New Zealand in a friendly in front of 20,076 at Brighton’s Amex Stadium — with Neville claiming that his squad will be the best-prepared team at the tournament.
And Neville said:
“We’re going into a major tournament as the best-prepared team and I want us to smile and enjoy it. I want the players to relax. I’m relaxed. I’m going to a World Cup and I want my team to have the same enjoyment and excitement as me. The challenge now is for us all to perform on the big stage.
“We’ve talked long and hard about it, we’ve not been shy about our expectations. Now we need to deliver. That’s my challenge and my excitement. We’ve dreamt of this moment all our lives. When we get to it we’re going to have to perform. I’m going to have to manage better than I ever have and they’re going to have to play, to have any kind of success they are going to have superhuman efforts. People don’t just knock on the door and give you a World Cup medal.”
Neville says that he is happy with the squad’s preparation and that he has offered every player the chance to shine ahead of the tournament — so much so that they can have no complaints if they are not chosen to start the match against Scotland.
“When I pick the team against Scotland they can’t knock on my door and say boss you haven’t given me an opportunity. I’ve played them all, I’ve tested them all, now I know what eleven I’m going to play in probably all three of the group games.”
But in Scotland, the Lionesses face a tough opponent and Shelley Kerr’s side have been handed a boost by former men’s team boss Craig Brown, who says he believes that the outfit can reach the last 16 of the competition.
“I think Scotland can qualify for the second round. I saw England lose the other night to New Zealand. I didn’t think they were anything special, nothing to be afraid of. It would be a terrific boost if Scotland could qualify from the group. They have to be given great credit for even getting there. If they can go one step further that would be fabulous. The women are getting great publicity for qualifying for these finals and rightly so.
“This can inspire the Scotland men’s team as the profile you get for reaching a World Cup is quite incredible. I’m sure everyone who is Scottish wants to be a World Cup player or at least a European Championship player.”