Neville: England Women ‘anxious’ in loss to New Zealand

England line up before their friendly with New Zealand (pic Daniel Hambury/PA)

England line up before their friendly with New Zealand (pic Daniel Hambury/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

England Women head coach Phil Neville felt his players lacked composure and became “anxious” and “desperate” during the shock World Cup warm-up defeat to New Zealand.

The Lionesses were looking to sign off in style before heading to France with ambitions of bringing home the trophy but, despite dominating in Brighton, were beaten 1-0 by inferior opposition.

A second-half strike from Sarah Gregorius settled matters at a sun-drenched Amex Stadium, leaving Neville with plenty to ponder ahead of his side's Group D opener against Scotland on June 9.

"The girls are really disappointed - disappointed because I think it was a really good occasion and it was a send-off," said Neville.

"They wanted to celebrate more at the end than what we were allowed to do because we've lost the game.

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"I wanted us to have a little bit more composure and try and weave a goal rather than just put the ball into the box.

"Their goal made us a little bit anxious in the final third and it felt as if the players started to get desperate and there were still 15 minutes plus four minutes injury time (to play).

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"I actually thought the occasion of wanting so badly to get back into the game meant they were so desperate and in the end we didn't have enough to break them down.

"It felt like an attack v defence game where they just hit us on a sucker punch."

Despite creating little and losing momentum ahead of the big kick-off, Neville said he was "contented" and "not deflated".

The Lionesses, who fly to France on Tuesday, had some opportunities to open the scoring in the opening 45 minutes, with striker Jodie Taylor particularly culpable of wasting chances.

Former Manchester United defender Neville is keen for the tournament to start and said friendly matches as part of the 'Road to France Series' have become more of an irritation than useful preparation.

"Every day we've been counting the days down because Tuesday, from our point of view, is where we want to be," he said.

"These games have been a little bit of a nuisance for us and New Zealand said the same thing in terms of getting out to France.

"I'm happy, I'm contented. I think I saw a team that played with confidence and ability but we lost the game and we don't like losing. I'm not deflated."

Neville, who made 10 changes on Saturday, knows his line-up for the World Cup opener in Nice.

He also revealed he has four injuries in his squad, although he expects goalkeeper Mary Earps, full-backs Demi Stokes and Rachel Daly, and midfielder Jade Moore to overcome minor knocks before the Scotland game.

Speaking about lifting his players, he added: "I think you take your mood off the manager sometimes.

"What I've noticed a lot since I've come into women's football is that the manager does set the tone in terms of the mood and if I'm happy, they're happy, or if I'm sad or angry, they're angry and sad as well.

"I feel totally relaxed about what I saw today and that's what I told them at the end."

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