England manager Phil Neville has declared that his players cannot contemplate anything other than victory tonight when they take on the United States in their World Cup semi-final.
As winger Nikita Parris insisted it was ridiculous to suggest the Americans, reigning world champions, might be tougher than England and full back Lucy Bronze said Neville’s players were more ‘destined’ to reach a final than ever, the manager said he senses a breakthrough moment. ‘We’re at that moment now where it’s so close and we’ve spoken long and hard about this,’ Neville (right) said. ‘I want my players to realise that we are so close and we have to deliver. We have to.
‘There is no upside to defeat. Losing in a semi-final would mean nothing to me. Every single meeting, every single training session, every five-a-side we’ve had, we’ve spoken about winning. Winning is the most important thing. It’s
about winning — that’s the mentality we’ve brought in.’
The 42-year-old said that his career at Manchester United as a player and coach had taught him how one trophy can build a belief that brings many more.
‘I won the league (against) Middlesbrough and I wore my medal for the next two or three days,’ he said, recalling Sir Alex Ferguson’s team’s 3-0 win in May 1996 which secured them the title.
‘I thought, “I want this again and the best want it again and again”.’
Neville has still not heard from his old mentor Ferguson, who — as a Scot — would be unlikely to offer any support for an England team, even in circumstances such as these.
Meanwhile, US goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher rejected Neville’s suggestion on Sunday that her team organisers had breached etiquette by scouting the England team’s hotel in Lyon as a possible World Cup final base, even while the Lionesses were staying in the resort.
‘That has nothing to do with the game,’ said Naeher. ‘Our managers and operations have scouted out every hotel we’ve ever stayed in to make sure we’ve got plan A, plan B, plan C.’
The FA said it had ‘absolutely no concerns’ about a passer-by who was initially alleged to have been spying on training.
England, who will play in white tonight, have no injury problems, according to Neville.
The manager’s selection puzzles are whether to bring the more muscular Jade Moore into midfield in place of Keira Walsh, and choosing between Beth Mead and Toni Duggan.