England boss Neville unfazed by pressure despite slump


Orlando (AFP) – England manager Phil Neville shrugged off speculation about his future on Wednesday as his players prepare for their SheBelieves Cup opener against the United States.

Neville’s position has come under scrutiny following a post-World Cup slump that has seen his team win just twice in seven matches.

The former Manchester United and Everton defender is likely to face further pressure if England fail to mount a strong defence of the SheBelieves four-nation tournament, which kicks off in Orlando on Thursday.

Neville, however, remains unfazed and is confident in a squad which has been refreshed since last summer’s World Cup.

“When I first got the job, it seemed to take a massive upwards curve,” said Neville, whose team play the world champion USA on Thursday.

“The first SheBelieves match we beat France and I thought this will not last forever, there is always going to be a downturn.

“The best managers can get the sack. Even in the World Cup I remember beating Norway and thinking ‘This is really good’ but there has to be a balance because ultimately there will be dips. 

“Now I see a set of players who have their mojo back and we’re in a good place.”

Neville, who is without injured full-back Lucy Bronze, has introduced some fresh faces into his squad for the tournament which also includes games against Japan and Spain.

Seven new players who were not involved in the 2019 World Cup have been taken to the United States with the likes of Beth England and Lauren Hemp eager to stake their claims.

“People talk about development and when you come out of Under-21 football it becomes about winning,” Neville added.

“When I got into the first team at Manchester United, Peter Schmeichel and Roy Keane didn’t come and put an arm around my shoulder every time I gave a bad pass away, they told me in no uncertain terms it was about winning. 

“That’s what the senior players have done with this crop now.”

England captain Steph Houghton, who missed a late opportunity to equalise with a penalty in the World Cup semi-final defeat to the USA, said the team had tried to learn from that shattering loss.

“We have to look at ourselves in that game,” Houghton said. 

“Looking back we have analysed the game as a team and we took the game to the USA in parts and really controlled possession and it’s those fine margins in that level of game.”

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