Women's Senior
Women's Senior

Russia defeated - now Phil Neville says England are ready to surprise Wales

Saturday 09 Jun 2018
England Women's head coach Phil Neville

Phil Neville led England to an important World Cup qualifying win over Russia on Friday night – and his focus immediately switched to the crucial match against Wales in August.

Jill Scott bagged a brace after her Manchester City club mate Nikita Parris had opened the scoring with a header as the Lionesses ran out 3-1 victors in Moscow.

England are now two points clear of the Red Dragons with just two qualifiers remaining, and it’s now a straight shoot-out between the home nations.

Russia 1-3 England
  • 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup
  • Group 1 qualifier
  • Friday 8 June 2018
  • Sapsan Arena, Moscow
Wales frustrated England at St. Mary’s in April and came away with a goalless draw. But Neville reckons he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve ahead of their next encounter.

He explained: “We know exactly how we’re going to play against Wales. We’re going to play a different way than we’ve played in the last three or four camps.

“We’ve got a formula and we’ve been working on it for the last 10 days.

“We hope to catch Wales by surprise by the new system we’re going to play against them.”

Neville continued: “There’s more expectation on us so teams are playing differently against us.

“From the videos I’ve watched of them over the last 12-18 months [Russia] have never played with three central defenders.

“Wales did it against us, Bosnia did it against us, now Russia have done it against us. People are showing us the utmost respect because of the reputation that we’ve got, the quality of our players and the quality of our team.

“Against Bosnia and Russia we found a different way of playing against that kind of system.”

Injury robbed Neville of some key players in Moscow.

Captain Steph Houghton, vice-captain Jordan Nobbs, midfielders Fara Williams, Isobel Christiansen and Jade Moore and left-back Demi Stokes were all unavailable.

And Neville has challenged them to fight for their place back into the squad.

He said: “We lost some of our big players, players that probably would have played [against Russia].

“But we’ve got players like Lucy Staniforth who came in and was sensational in training. So too was Lauren Bruton.

“Leah Williamson made her debut [against Russia]. I’ve had her in the last two and a half camps and these last 10 days I thought ‘you’re ready to play’.

“Abbie McManus has played in every single one of my games and she has earned the right to stay in the team so it’s up to others to fight.

“Those who have got injuries will need to be looking over their shoulder. We’ve got a pool of players that’s getting bigger and bigger.

“All of a sudden I’ve got competitions for places.”

However, despite going in at the break two goals to the good, Neville was far from happy with his side’s first-half performance.

He said: “It was the unhappiest I’ve ever been at half time. I took no enjoyment from the first half whatsoever.

“I thought we were sloppy in our standards, we were sloppy in possession. Even the simple things we didn’t do well. At half time, even though we were winning the game 3-1, in my mind it felt like we were losing.

“The players have had a long season but that wasn’t physical tiredness out there, that was mental tiredness. I understood that and I said to them that when you are feeling like that you have got to do the basics right.

“But I’ve got an outstanding group of players who are willing to take ownership of their own performances.

“In my first six months it’s so far, so good and there is plenty to look forward to.”

By Glenn Lavery