Women's World Cup 2019

Becks' pep talk spurs England

Ellen White scoring England's second goal in their 3-0 win over Norway in their quarter-final in Le Havre, France, on Thursday. She is the first English footballer to score in four straight games in a single World Cup.
Ellen White scoring England's second goal in their 3-0 win over Norway in their quarter-final in Le Havre, France, on Thursday. She is the first English footballer to score in four straight games in a single World Cup.PHOTO: REUTERS

Manager Neville reveals his Lionesses were inspired into being more ruthless than ever

LONDON • Phil Neville celebrated one of his "proudest moments in football" on a windy night in Le Havre, where a pre-match pep talk from his old friend David Beckham inspired his England side of "bad-a**" women to hit new heights.

The Lionesses' manager had demanded a 10 to 15 per cent improvement in performance, but got much more than that as they swept aside Norway 3-0 in a more straightforward than advertised quarter-final on Thursday.

Neville had no inhibitions spelling out the extent of his ambitions, stressing: "We're in it to win it."

Jill Scott, Ellen White and Lucy Bronze fired England into Tuesday's semi-final against champions United States or hosts France and they will hold no fear after Norway were taken apart by Bronze's swashbuckling play.

All the signs are pointing towards England improving on their best finish, third in the last edition, with their last-four clash taking place at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, where the right-back plies her trade and "loves playing in".

"Twelve months ago, we set out our objectives," Neville said. "All I wanted my players to say was they wanted to win the World Cup, but they said they wanted more, to create a name people would relate to.

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  • England midfielder Jill Scott's goal after just 126 seconds against Norway is the fastest goal at the tournament so far.

"They were thinking bigger and that really knocked me out of my stride. We're getting to that legacy moment.

"I thought the difference tonight was that we were more ruthless than before."

Warming to his legacy theme, he also sent out a warning that England are "playing a type of football that no one's ever played before, that will get us through the semi."

He said: "I'm not getting carried away, but I said to them in the huddle, 'Are you ready to win the World Cup?'.

"They have glazed eyes. Something is happening, we can't hide that. We can't wait until Tuesday.

"I was brought in to get us through a semi-final."

He also revealed Beckham had given his players a "5pm team talk", while a video message of encouragement from Olympic rowing gold medallist Katherine Grainger gave them "goosebumps", as did former Arsenal great Ian Wright, who settled any nerves with his jokes.

Neville added: "My players loved it. David has been supporting us from day one and is an icon, and Ian knew all their nicknames and made them laugh. My job was made easy.

"It was one of the proudest moments I've had in football. But I'm lucky, I'm just the coach.

"My players go out and play with bravery, play the right way. Our style is non-negotiable.

"We're having fun and we don't want to go home."

Reserving special praise for "the best player in the world" Bronze, he renewed calls for the Lyon defender to "win the Ballon d'Or 100 per cent".

He said: "You saw a player at the top of her game. She's the best, there's no one like her. She is someone who doesn't get the recognition worldwide she deserves."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2019, with the headline 'Becks' pep talk spurs England'. Print Edition | Subscribe