LE HAVRE, France – While England women’s national team coach Phil Neville has developed a reputation for making sweeping changes to the starting XI from game to game, he’s remaining coy about how he intends to set up his squad against Argentina at Stade Oceane on Friday.
England defeated Scotland 2-1 in its FIFA World Cup opener last week and is at the top of Group D, but Neville says his team needs to improve – particularly with possession and in the attacking third.
The Lionesses looked like the more dangerous side as they out-shot Scotland 14-8, but they put themselves at risk of forfeiting points by squandering chances and conceding a goal off a preventable lapse.
“I was disappointed after the game because it was a 2-1 score line when it was never a 2-1 game,” Neville told media at the Stade Oceane on Thursday. “The football we played the whole game apart from an 11-minute period in the second half where we dropped our levels and started to play stand-still football was as good of football we’ve played in my time as manager.
“2-1 didn’t reflect our dominance. It didn’t reflect the way we played.”
England strikers Nikita Parris and Ellen White scored against Scotland, but Neville might look to add a new face to the attack against Argentina, which defended well in a 0-0 tie against reigning runners-up Japan on Monday at the Parc des Princes.
As such, veteran attacker Jodie Taylor, who has 17 goals in 43 international appearances and plays for Reign FC of the National Women’s Soccer League, could debut in the tournament on Friday.
Neville noted he will need more clinical finishing against the Argentines, whose players and coaches have said they plan to remain compact against most opponents here in France.
“We’re under no illusions that it won’t be a tough game,” said Neville. “It’s tough because they’ll be difficult to break down. In the games we’ve seen against Argentina, we haven’t seen them as organized, and as determined, as they were against Japan.”
Playing for another tie on Friday suits Argentina, as it’s currently tied on points with Japan in a wide-open group.
If the Argentines can hold off England and secure another result against Scotland in the final group game, they’ll have a reasonable chance to advance into the knockout round — if not as one of the top two Group D finalists, then as one of the top four third-place finishers.
“They will plan to sit back and defend deeper than Scotland did, so our attackers know it’s not just man-to-man, but that they’ll have two or three players around them,” Neville added. “They’ll play in tight spaces and we’ll have very limited opportunities to get on the ball and create chances.”