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Women's World Cup: England looks to defy history with a win over the US

Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Soccer

LYON, France -- When the English Football Association asked Phil Neville to take over the women's national team 18 months ago, it seemed a strange choice. His only experience as a head coach was a brief spell with a fourth-tier team in which he had an ownership stake.

Yet, that was far more experience than he had in the women's game.

What Neville did understand, however, was winning, having lifted 14 trophies, including a Champions League title, as a player at Manchester United. So for a women's team that had stalled in the semifinals of its last two major tournaments under coach Mark Sampson, Neville seemed like an inspired choice.

On Tuesday, we'll find out whether the FA was right when England plays in yet another semifinal, this time in the Women's World Cup, against the defending champion U.S.

"I was brought into this job to get us through a semifinal. I don't think there's been a team that's played that type of football before," Neville said of the passing game he introduced in England, one he considers revolutionary.

"This type of football will get us through a semifinal. We're in it to win it."

 

It has been 53 years since an English team has won anything internationally. In fact, no English team has even made it to the final of a World Cup since 1966. And Neville made it clear Sunday that he's not interested in the consolation prizes his country took home from the last men's and women's World Cups, which England finished by playing in the third-place game.

"Nobody cares who loses in the semifinals. It's all about winning. And my players want to win," he said. "So if we don't get the right result, we'll be disappointed. We'll see that as a failure.

"That's not me being negative. That's just our expectations and our belief and our confidence now and our mind-set. Every sport's about winning. Nobody cares who gets the silver or bronze. It's the gold medal that everybody wants."

Especially the players on Neville's roster. Twelve of the 23 women he brought to France also played on the England team that lost in the semifinals of the 2015 Women's World Cup and the 2017 Euros. Captain Steph Houghton said they want a new experience.

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