Women's World Cup 2019

Neville wants his Lionesses to be ruthless

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

NICE (France) • England coach Phil Neville believes his players have "nothing to fear" after beginning their women's World Cup quest on Sunday with a narrow 2-1 win over Scotland, in which a convincing first half was slightly undermined by a less than ruthless second.

Nikita Parris converted from the spot after a Video Assistant Referee review to give the Lionesses the lead and Ellen White added another before half-time.

While Scotland fought back in the second half, with Claire Emslie reducing the arrears, they could not find an equaliser against one of the tournament's favourites.

Revealing he was "really proud" of his team's efforts, Neville said: "It was good to get that game out of the way. It was always going to be emotional and was really hot. We played really well in the first half... started off playing very adventurously.

"When our legs got heavy in the second half, though, we let fatigue get the better of us. We have to keep driving standards higher and being ruthless but I loved every minute."

Having never been named in a World Cup squad as an England player, Neville was always going to enjoy the moment and had no objections with suggestions that the opening goal was harsh on Scotland.

The new rules allow no scope for a referee's discretion even if the offence lacked intent, with Scotland coach Shelley Kerr admitting, while it was "harsh" that Nicola Docherty was penalised after Fran Kirby's cross had flicked off her partially outstretched arm, that "by the letter of the law, it was a penalty".

Neville also reserved special praise for forward Parris, challenging her to take on even more on-pitch responsibilities as "she is someone with another 10 per cent still left in her".

But he urged the players to raise their game if England are to improve on their third-place finish in the 2015 edition and win their maiden world title.

The former Manchester United defender added: "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."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2019, with the headline 'Neville wants his Lionesses to be ruthless'. Print Edition | Subscribe