England Women boss Phil Neville has spoken of his players’ desire for the Lionesses to become “one of the greatest sports teams in the world” and “talked about like the All Blacks”.
England’s preparations for this summer’s World Cup in France continue on Friday with a friendly against Canada in Manchester.
Neville, who has been in charge since January 2018, said ahead of the fixture: “I sat in a room with my team just before we played Russia 12 months ago and we were talking about objectives for next year.
“What blew me away was that I wanted them just to say, ‘we want to win the World Cup’. They actually went bigger.
“They said, ‘we want bigger than just winning a World Cup – we want, over the next five, 10 years, for the Lionesses to become one of the greatest sports teams in the world, to be talked about like the All Blacks, leave legacies that the young kids of today will always remember’.
“I was like, ‘wow – this is good because they’re thinking bigger than actually what I thought they were thinking’. I had to readjust my objectives.”
England are set to head into the showpiece in France, which runs from June 7 to July 7, with considerable expectation upon them.
They achieved their best ever Women’s World Cup run in 2015, reaching the semi-finals with a 2-1 victory over hosts Canada and finishing third, also reaching the last four of Euro 2017, and last month they won the invitational SheBelieves Cup for the first time. That campaign saw them beat Brazil and Japan and draw with hosts and defending world champions the United States.
Neville said of the expectation: “We are not going to back off from that or be fearful or panic about it. We actually want to enjoy it.
“In 2015, maybe the expectation wasn’t there. England went to a tournament hoping rather than believing. Now we’re going to a tournament with the expectation on us and it’s where we want to be.”
He added: “If I was in the Canada side or the manager, I would be thinking, ‘let’s get right into England, they’ve just won the SheBelieves, they’re talking about winning the World Cup’.
“We’re a scalp. So tomorrow for me, it is – how can my players handle that?”
Following the Canada match at the Academy Stadium, Manchester City Women’s home ground, Neville’s side face Spain at Swindon’s Energy Check County Ground on Tuesday, then have two further World Cup warm-up games, against Denmark at Walsall’s Banks’s Stadium on May 25 and New Zealand at Brighton’s Amex Stadium a week later.
While England will be without Fran Kirby on Friday after she withdrew from the squad on Tuesday due to a knee problem, Neville has said there is “no concern” at this stage about the Chelsea forward’s availability for the World Cup.
Izzy Christiansen was not included in the squad for the Canada and Spain games, with the midfielder sidelined after injuring her ankle in the SheBelieves Cup win over Japan.
Neville said of the Lyon player: “Izzy was with us on Monday. She’s gone back to Lyon now because we need her to have one-to-one treatment, virtually 24 hours a day.
“She’s on a programme and it’s quite brutal, to get her fit to be selected when we name the squad (for the World Cup).”