Home NEWS England get sense of deja vu in defeat to Germany as bad...

England get sense of deja vu in defeat to Germany as bad habits under Phil Neville cost them once again


Nothing about Saturday’s record-breaking 77,768 crowd at Wembley was commonplace for an England women’s game, but their performance and result – a 2-1 loss to Germany – had a feeling of deja vu about it.

Slow, nervy start? Check. Missed penalty? Nikita Parris made it four misses from England’s past four attempts from the spot. Conceding from a cross? We have been here before. That is now 10 goals conceded directly from crosses under Phil Neville’s management.

England are developing habits – bad ones – that are becoming almost symptomatic every time they take to the pitch. The only difference this time was that Neville finally acknowledged that the buck ultimately stops with him.

“I do take responsibility,” he said. “As a manager you have to, because ultimately I do pick the team and I do set the culture. We have a good culture but, at this moment in time, we’re not playing winning football.

“Firstly, I need to look at myself and what I’m doing, and make sure I’m better, because as a manager you’re the one that leads. I will protect the players and they know they’ve got my trust and belief, but we’ve got to make sure we’re better. Obviously, my performances haven’t been good enough and you can see that with the results we’ve got.”

It was a marked about-turn on his observations following the previous four friendlies since the World Cup. This injury-time defeat meant England have just one win from their past seven, and even that was a gift from Portugal’s goalkeeper in the Lionesses’ 1-0 win last month.

And yet, during their winless run, Neville called their football “outstanding” and lauded his players for “one of their best performances” in the 2-1 defeat by Brazil in October. He was staunchly defiant in the face of criticism, unbending in what bordered on deluded praise for a team who were clearly struggling.

In at last offering some pensive reflection and recognising they have taken a step backwards since reaching the World Cup semi-finals, he has at least won back some respect. But the pressure to turn things around remains. He admits finding their winning form again might mean redressing some of the tactics and style of play he had previously refused to budge on.

“As a manager you want to live and die by your beliefs but, ultimately, the run that we are on means something has to change,” he said. “Performance levels have to change and it is up to me to find that formula.”

He did not bow to suggestions his team were not good enough to play the kind of attacking, possession football he has attempted to instill in the camp, and argued that it is still what will pay dividends at the Olympics next year, and beyond to Euro 2021, which England are to host.

“For the long-term development of the Lionesses we have to play this style of football. It is the England DNA. It is the way Gareth [Southgate] is playing, that I am playing, that the pathway coaches are playing on both sides. It is what we believe in.

“We just need to get better at it and better at it faster than we are at the moment. The mistakes are coming not because of the shape we are in but little technical errors that we are working on all the time.

“I am hoping [it will come good] on the big occasion, whether at the Olympics, or Euro 2021 or the World Cup in 2023. We have to look at a way of finding a tweak to make sure we start winning games again.”

The players, too, are eager to return to winning ways. On a historic night for women’s football, the jubilant scenes after Ellen White’s equaliser proved the only real moment of celebration for the squad, who were in dejected mood.

“I guess it’s the story of our lives at the moment,” Beth Mead said. “I guess we’ve got to believe in what we’re doing. We’re lucky, if anything, it’s the right time to be doing it. We’ve just got to find that missing link to get us over the line in other games.

“[There are] massive emotions at a stadium like this with the crowd. You want to get the win and a result for them. So it’s disappointing as a player and I’m sure the coaching staff feel exactly the same.”

The tricky part now is overcoming the pressure, which is mounting, and putting on a convincing display against the Czech Republic, ranked 28th in the world, on Tuesday. But how do you go from the highs of a 77,000-strong crowd at Wembley to a 6,600-capacity stadium in Ceske Budejovice?

“We always want to break barriers and want to move forward,” Mead said. “But as a team you go there to play football and we’ve got to refocus ourselves, and get in the mindset that it has to be a must-win game for us so that at least we finish 2019 on a high and can prepare, ready for 2020, to hopefully hit the ground running.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here