Phil Neville said on Sunday that England will have backing from the unlikely source of France as they prepare for face the all-conquering United States in the women’s World Cup semi-finals.
England are gunning for their first ever final in the competition after making the last four for the third time in a row, and Neville says he expects the crowd at the Groupama Stadium in Lyon to get behind the Lionesses when they take on the team that dumped the French out in the quarter-finals on Friday.
“I think we are the French people’s second team now, the support from France has been incredible down in Nice and in Valenciennes, so I think we’ll have the crowd on our side tomorrow night,” Neville told reporters at a press conference ahead of the match.
“I think the whole of the French people have got behind our story, our football and I do believe that we are now the team that the French public wants us to win the World Cup.”
England come into Tuesday’s clash keen to lay to rest the ghost of 2015, when they were eliminated by Japan at the semi-final stage following a crushing 92nd minute own goal from Laura Bassett, and Neville says he has tried emulate the Americans’ winning mentality.
“No-one cares who loses in the semi-final… If we don’t get the right result we will be disappointed. We will see it as a failure, and that’s not me being negative but just our expectations,” he added.
“Elite sport is about winning, no-one cares about getting silver or bronze, it’s the gold medal that everybody wants. I’ve got to say that America has the ruthless streak of wanting to win.”
England captain Steph Houghton was playing alongside Bassett in central defence when that own goal crashed in off the bar in Edmonton, and she says that England come to the semis a stronger team than the one that suffered heartache four years ago.
“For those players who were involved in 2015 I think we never really expected to get to the semi-final mark and I thought back then that it was one of our best games of the tournament and we were unluckly not to win,” said the 31-year-old Manchester City player.
“Obviously when that goal goes in you’re devastated but … we’re in a better position now.”