Neville: Winning the only objective for Lionesses at SheBelieves Cup

Phil Neville during the press conference (Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra)

Successfully defending their title is the only objective for the Lionesses at the SheBelieves Cup, insists Phil Neville, as he named his squad to compete in America next month. 

England won last year’s invitational competition in the States after going unbeaten in their three games against Japan, Brazil and the hosts. 

And despite naming a group containing a mixture of youth and experience for this year’s edition - the likes of Chloe Kelly and Grace Fisk both notable call-ups - Neville believes that the chance for the side to test themselves against the world’s best must not be taken lightly.

With this summer’s Olympic Games, as well as next year’s home European Championships fast-approaching, the Lionesses head coach knows that – after the disappointment of being knocked out of last summer’s World Cup by the USA at the semi-final stage - his charges must get back into the winning habit. 

“I want us to approach it the same as we did last season when we won the competition,” he said. “I want to see the togetherness, the spirit, the determination to win.

“I think when you stand on the platform with a trophy and a medal round your neck, that breeds confidence, gives the team that belief that they can beat the best team in the world. 

“This is the best competition outside the major tournaments. You’re playing against the best team in the world and you’re playing against two really good teams. 

“I think this is vital in our programme. We want to win the competition and that’s something that I’ll be telling the team when we meet up in a couple of weeks’ time. 

“Regardless of the fresh young players that we’ve got in the team, the fantastic older players and the experience we’ve got amongst the whole party; football’s about winning. 

“It’s about going out there and winning the game, about beating the best team in the world, beating Japan, beating Spain. 

“I don’t care what sport you play, when you play in a competition, play in a tournament, finishing first matters, because that gives you the drive, the determination, the confidence to go to an Olympic Games, a Euros, with the fact that you have competed against the best.”

Making room for the new faces in the camp, several high-profile faces have made way, with Manchester United goalkeeper Mary Earps and international stalwart Jodie Taylor two of the biggest names to miss out - the latter replaced by in-form Chelsea striker Beth England. 

And Neville is clearly relishing the opportunity to deploy the Barclays Women’s Super League’s second-top scorer in his front line.  

“Her (England) and Ellen White are the two best centre forwards in England on form,” he continued.

“She deserves her place in the squad and she will be getting an opportunity in SheBelieves to play.

“She was really unlucky before the World Cup. She just probably started to hit her form too late. 

“We said to her before the World Cup when she came into the camps that she will be getting opportunities after Christmas and what we’ve seen is a girl that has just rapidly improved every single time that I’ve seen her.

 “She’s playing in a team full of confidence, but she, in a team of probably, experienced, international footballers, looks to me the standout one and every time I see her play, she’s added another bit of quality to her game.”

England squad for the SheBelieves Cup in full: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Toni Duggan (Atletico Madrid), Bethany England (Chelsea), Grace Fisk (West Ham United), Alex Greenwood (Lyon), Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Chloe Kelly (Everton), Sandy MacIver (Everton), Abbie McManus (Manchester United), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Lyon), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Lucy Staniforth (Birmingham City), Georgia Stanway (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Carly Telford (Chelsea), Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Ellen White (Manchester City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal).