Phil Neville defended the selection policy that saw him make seven changes for England’s 2-0 win over Japan , insisting: “we picked our best team today, our strongest team, because the players we picked was the strongest team to play against Japan.”
Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton and Jill Scott were the only survivors from England’s 1-0 win over Argentina but Ellen White’s brace vindicated his potentially risky tinkering.
Neville said: “What we’ve done is we profile every player, so it depends on what team we’re playing. There’s certain players that are our experts in certain games. We need to decide which team we’re playing, decide how they play, how we’re going to beat them, then pick the players that will fit the profile the best.
“At times when you make more than five [changes], you struggle in the rythym and the flow. I think we did that tonight, but we also had three players in [Georgia] Stanway, [Toni] Duggan and [Demi] Stokes who needed those minutes.
“We knew at times we were going to suffer but I think it was a game we needed to have to keep us focused. I felt very comfortable in the first half even though I thought we could have passed it a little better. Three or four players did look fatigued towards the end - they made some good substitutions. We needed that second goal to give us that breathing space.
Neville also defended his habit of speaking to the players on the pitch post-match, explaining that while this is often perceived as a public dressing-down, it is because Fifa’s new rules around post-match interviews - that players must now speak to the press immediately after the final whistle, without entering the dressing room first - mean this is the only opportunity to debrief his players before they meet the media.
“You watch a lot of the women’s games and a lot of huddles do happen on the pitch because if you’re a male manager, you don’t go back into the dressing room,” Neville said.
“What we decided as a group was we had to speak to the players before they speak to the media, because they like to know what I’m thinking. They like messages. We just like that little three to four minutes of clarity in our thinking. You probably get the same answer from everybody because that’s the answer that we give them.”