Football: Neville concerned by England's second-half dip; Brazil win without Marta

England manager Phil Neville during a press conference in Nice, France, on June 8, 2019.
England manager Phil Neville during a press conference in Nice, France, on June 8, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (REUTERS, AFP) - England cannot afford to drop their intensity in the second half and must be ruthless in possession if they are to progress at the women's World Cup, coach Phil Neville said after last Sunday's (June 9) 2-1 Group D win over Scotland.

England were leading 2-0 but tired after the hour mark in Nice and after repeatedly giving away possession, allowed Scotland to pull one back in the 79th minute.

"We played really well in the first half, we spoke all week about the style of football we want to play," Neville told reporters. "In the second half... we need to keep the ball better. We have to keep being ruthless.

"There should be no fear. They're a good set of players with good quality and when I see how they play like they did for the first 60 minutes we are a good team which will progress in the competition.

"But if we drop our levels it will be tougher. We want to be here for the next 27 days. We should have done better... At 2-0 we thought it was going to be easy in the second half, it was a lesson that every game is going to be hard."

England captain Steph Houghton, whose careless pass allowed Scotland to counter-attack and score, said their second-half performance was not good enough and that she was relieved to win all three points.

"We need to be better, the girls know that," Houghton said. "But for us it's not about peaking at this moment in time. Hopefully we've got a lot of games to go and we've got to make sure everybody's fit and fresh, and ready to go."

England play Argentina while Scotland face Japan on Friday (June 14).

Also on Sunday, Brazil's Cristiane started in place of Marta, who had not recovered from a thigh injury, and fired three goals to ensure her side didn't miss their star attacker.

The 34-year-old, collecting her 139th cap, headed in the opener after 15 minutes, scooped a rebound over the line five minutes after the break and capped her treble with a fine free kick that curled in off the underside of the bar just past the hour in the Group C match in Grenoble.

Jamaica offered little resistance, and although their pace sometimes troubled the opposing defence, Brazil could have won by more.

"Our attack was a huge point of satisfaction," said Brazil coach Vadao. "Especially Cristiane, who the coaching staff has always believed in despite her injuries."

Vadao said he was hopeful Marta would return for Thursday's (June 13) game against Australia in Montpellier.

In another Group C match, Barbara Bonansea ensured Italy made a dramatic return to the competition after a 20-year absence on Sunday with a stoppage-time winner that gave her team a last-gasp victory over tournament dark horses Australia.

Juventus' Bonansea popped up at the back post to head home the winner having already levelled for the dogged Italians, putting the Azzurre second behind Brazil in the group.

"What can I say, it's incredible, and scoring with my head as well, which never happens with me," said Bonansea, who scored Italy's first two women's World Cup goals in two decades.

"It's so wonderful. I hope we can qualify for the knockout stage because these two goals are meant to help us do just that."

The Australians, tipped by many to have a big impact in France, had taken a first-half lead through hotshot Sam Kerr, but were sloppy at the back and allowed Bonansea to score two cheap goals.

The win gives Italy a great chance of sealing qualification when they take on Jamaica on Friday (June 14), although Bonansea warned against complacency.

"Maybe they're a bit less organised (than Australia), but they're physically very strong and aggressive, and we need to play in the same way we did today," she said.