Phil Neville: USA the standard-bearer, but England will catch up

Despite a Women's World Cup semifinal loss to the United States, England coach Phil Neville thinks his team will bridge the gap.

Phil Neville and Alex Morgan   -  Getty Images

The United States may have beaten England to return to the Women's World Cup final, but Phil Neville is adamant his Lionesses will eventually bridge the gap.

England suffered a third successive semifinal defeat at a major tournament as Jill Ellis' defending champion claimed a 2-1 victory in Lyon even without an injured Megan Rapinoe to reach its third straight final. Rapinoe's replacement, Christen Press, headed in the first and though Ellen White equalised for the Lionesses, Alex Morgan scored what proved to be the winner as Steph Houghton had a late penalty saved by USA goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.

REPORT | US 2-1 ENG

USA can now move into England's hotel, with members of its backroom team having controversially done so before the semifinal, but Neville warned that it will not remain on its perch forever having seen how his old club Manchester United has struggled since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.

'Winning mentality'

"They can now have our hotel," Neville joked. "They're the standard-bearers. I played for a football club that won a lot in a long space of time. We were the ones that everyone wanted to catch. Eventually teams caught Man United and eventually we will catch USA. At the moment they're the best team because of that winning mentality.

"We will get there, we are closing the gap. We've got to keep investing in the pathway, driving standards within our leagues and young players. We've got to keep having sustained success and keep building the momentum that we've got.

Read | Confidence? Arrogance? Maybe USA knew it would need Rapinoe in the final

"America have got that winning mentality of knowing what it means to win. We will get that, we're learning that, developing that, coaching that every single day. It doesn't happen overnight, it takes time. We will get there."

Neville absolves Houghton of blame

Phil Neville absolved Steph Houghton of blame after she had a late penalty saved in England's 2-1 Women's World Cup semifinal defeat to the United States on Tuesday.

A dramatic contest in Lyon went to the wire after first-half goals from Christen Press and Alex Morgan either side of Ellen White's equaliser put USA in front at the break.

 

England looked a more threatening side in the second period and was denied a leveller when a VAR review found White to be marginally offside. White then won a penalty in the 84th minute — another VAR referral deeming her to have been fouled by Becky Sauerbrunn — but Houghton's feeble effort was saved by Alyssa Naeher in the USA goal.

'Time of our lives'

But Neville was keen to ensure Houghton feels no blame for England's elimination. "I couldn't ask for more," he told BBC Sport. "We had the time of our lives.

"Steph Houghton has had an incredible year. She's an amazing person on and off the pitch. She'll be upset. She's been phenomenal. No blame should be attached to her. My players gave me everything. We said we wanted to leave our hearts and souls on the pitch and we did. We gave everything. They showed great experience at the end to keep the ball in the corner.

"We just ran out of steam. I asked them to play football the way we wanted. We've done our very best. I've told them, 'no tears tonight'."

England will contest the third-place play-off on Saturday against either Sweden or Netherlands.