Women’s World Cup: England boss Phil Neville says ‘players and I having time of our lives’

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England manager Phil Neville was happy with an ‘outstanding’ performance against Argentina

The England players are “having the time of their lives” at the Women’s World Cup in France and “so am I”, says manager Phil Neville.

The Lionesses beat Scotland 2-1 in their opening game and edged past Argentina 1-0 to reach the last 16.

England face two-time finalists Japan on Wednesday (kick-off 20:00 BST) to determine who finishes top of Group D.

Neville told BBC Sport: “Four days ago I was critical but I am so proud of every single one of them tonight.”

Former Manchester United and Everton player Neville brought the players together in a huddle after both games but was clearly angry when speaking to his players after beating the Scots.

Against Argentina in Reims, England were being left frustrated by goalkeeper Vanina Correa who made a string of fine saves – including a Nikita Parris penalty in the first half – before Jodie Taylor struck from Beth Mead’s cross on the hour mark.

It means England have won both their opening games at a World Cup for the first time and progressed to the knockout stage for the fifth consecutive time.

Japan, winners in 2011 and runners-up four years later, were held to a surprise goalless draw by Argentina in the opening game, but responded by beating Scotland earlier on Friday.

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Jodie Taylor’s goal gives England a narrow win over a stubborn Argentina side in Le Havre

Neville said: “I thought we played with confidence and composure like they have done for the past two days in training. Winning is a by-product of what you do during the week.

“Japan struggled to create chances against Argentina but we didn’t. You always have a bit of a dip [after missing a penalty]. We composed ourselves after that.

“The main message before the game was don’t get frustrated. We knew it would be an attack v defence game. Because it’s a World Cup you think, ‘Don’t get frustrated and keep passing the ball’.

“The most important thing is they’re having the time of their lives and so am I. It was brilliant from Jodie [Taylor]. Brilliant from Ellen [White] the other day.

“If I could pick anyone to score it would be my forwards. When you have a happy centre-forward you have a happy house. We have a real competition for places.”

England togetherness on ‘sentimental day’

The match came 11 years to the day since the death of Fran Kirby’s mum and the England forward was emotional at the end, receiving a hug from boss Neville.

Goalkeeper Carly Telford made her debut in a major tournament having not featured on three previous occasions and the Manchester City player lost her mum at the end of last year.

“We are a family,” said Neville. “In the huddle at the end, we made reference to the fact that [Fran’s and Carly’s] mums were looking down on them and would be proud of them.

“We help each other, it’s a sentimental day. Fran is a special person who misses her mum. We share their emotion, their happiness and their sadness.”

‘Taylor a world-class striker’

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Taylor caps a sweeping team move as England finally break the deadlock

Reign FC striker Taylor broke a 363-minute goalless run dating back to April 2018 when she scored the winning goal against Argentina.

At the last major tournament, Euro 2017 in the Netherlands, Taylor scored five goals to win the Golden Boot award as England reached the semi-finals before being beaten by the hosts.

“Jodie is a world-class striker, she had a great Euros,” captain Steph Houghton told BBC Radio 5 Live. “When you get her in those areas, you know she’ll put them away.”

Injured England and Arsenal midfielder Jordan Nobbs, on punditry duty for BBC One, said: “Jodie Taylor is a tournament player, she will score goals on a major stage.

“She is in the right spot at the right time and that is what she does.”

Taylor added: “Patience was the key, we said it all week. We have had experience facing a block of defence through qualifying and got frustrated, but today we had the quality and it paid off.”

‘I’m much happier with the performance’ – pundits react

Former England defender Alex Scott: “This performance was a lot better than against Scotland. It was about finding way of getting a result and breaking down a stubborn Argentina side and they’ve found a way to do that today.

“They dominated the play, they were patient, it was about picking out the right pass at the right time.”

Former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis: “Phil Neville will be pleased with the result. I’m much happier with the performance. They were consistent throughout the 90 minutes. That’s what Neville has looked for. It’s what they lacked in the build-up games and against Scotland.

“There were sharper performances individually. Jodie Taylor was much better second half, she looked to get involved. She’s a big-game player. She was not involved in the first half but she scored to win the game.”

BBC Sport’s Alistair Magowan: “England weren’t at their fluent best, but part of that is because they came up against a very well-drilled Argentina side so perhaps you cannot be too critical. They dug it out, and got the win.

“Beth Mead and Alex Greenwood impressed on the left side, and Mead helped create both the penalty and the winner.”

Best of the social media reaction

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The joy of having achieved their first objective was clear for all to see
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Nikita Parris might have missed from the spot but was again one of England’s most potent attackers
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Beth Mead supplied a brilliant assist for her room-mate Jodie Taylor
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England great Peter Shilton, who helped the men to the 1990 World Cup semi-finals, posted his congratulations
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British tennis’ number one, and recent French Open semi-finalist, has given her full backing to the team
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One of Great Britain’s hockey gold medallists at Rio 2016 praised England’s achievements so far

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