Phil Neville is relishing the prospect of playing a team ‘better’ than England will face in the group stage of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The Lionesses play host to Denmark and New Zealand in their final ‘Road to France’ friendly fixtures, with The Danes visiting a sold-out Banks’s Stadium in Walsall on Saturday afternoon.
Neville is aware of the threat that Denmark can pose to his side and has identified it as a greater test than some of the upcoming group games in June.
Speaking to University of Derby Football Journalism student Sam Ward, Neville said “We wanted a big test, when we spoke to Denmark about arranging this game, the one thing we stipulated was that we wanted them to bring their best players.
“This game could be harder than some of the group stage games that we have. Some of the teams in the World Cup, Denmark are better than.”
The 42-year-old has already tested his squad against some of the world’s best players including Alex Morgan and Marta. Saturday will prove to be no different for his team with Pernille Harder, UEFA Women’s Player of the Year 2018 in the Denmark squad which are expected to provide the Lionesses with another tough challenge.
Neville said “She’s a player that should be gracing a World Cup. I watched her for Wolfsburg against Lyon, I thought she was outstanding; energy, intelligence.
Two of England’s key players, Lucy Bronze and Toni Duggan, joined up with the squad late having faced each other in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final and Neville admitted that the pair would not be playing against Denmark as he looks to protect his squad ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
He said: “Lucy Bronze won’t be playing tomorrow or Toni Duggan. I’ve got to make sure that I protect those two in these friendlies because of the emotion of the UEFA Champions League; One is happy, one is sad.”
Lyon defender Bronze has played in a central midfield role in recent friendlies and Neville was keen to point out that this rotation would be stopping.
He stated: “Lucy will play in midfield and at right-back during the World Cup, Lucy and I both believe in her performances in those positions.”
England go into their two remaining friendlies brimming with confidence as they look to secure the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
The Lionesses face old rivals Scotland in Nice on 9 June in their first group game before taking on Argentina and former winners Japan.
By Sam Ward (@Sam_Ward00)