Eng­land buy­ing into Neville’s vi­sion

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Football - By Katie Why­att at Meadow Lane

Brazil’s makeshift left-back, Camila, will prob­a­bly find her dreams this week haunted by the vis­age of Nikita Par­ris. It is not too much of a leap to imag­ine Eng­land’s 24-year-old mid­fielder dart­ing be­neath Camilla’s eye­lids with the same stac­cato shuf­fling and swiv­el­ling with which the Manch­ester City winger taunted her op­po­nent dur­ing their wak­ing hours.

The tor­ment be­gan three min­utes in and rarely was there a let-up, the snake­hipped Par­ris swerv­ing her way around the Or­lando Pride mid­fielder like some sort of foot­ball con­tor­tion­ist.

So it was for Eng­land’s goal, Par­ris drop­ping her shoul­der and glid­ing free to land a per­fectly pitched cross on to the head of the wait­ing Fran Kirby. And so it con­tin­ued, re­lent­lessly, for much of the first half. Par­ris nearly had a goal her­self just be­fore half-time, fir­ing inches wide from out­side the area hav­ing reeled in Camila with all the com­po­sure of an ex­pert an­gler.

It was one of the hall­marks of an Eng­land side who are steadily mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion in pur­suit of man­ager Phil Neville’s at­tack­ing vi­sion. Neville has spo­ken of his de­sire to create a side who dom­i­nate the ball and im­pose their will on teams, to the ex­tent that he said in his mid­week press con­fer­ence: “We’re go­ing to die try­ing to do it my way.” As it was, they were fine here, but if Eng­land are to ap­proach the knock­out stages of next year’s World Cup with the same re­lent­less for­ward thrust and mo­men­tum, there may be prob­lems against less oblig­ing op­po­nents.

It could have been a dif­fer­ent story if, for ex­am­ple, Kerolin, af­ter danc­ing through Eng­land’s de­fence in added time, had cued her­self up for the fin­ish be­fore goal­keeper Carly Telford par­ried away the dan­ger, or if Lud­mila had been able to slot home af­ter scur­ry­ing through late on.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed that we didn’t score more,” said Neville. “It wasn’t a 1-0 type per­for­mance. Not be­ing ruth­less enough with our fin­ish­ing was prob­a­bly some­thing we all saw.

“The play­ers are dis­ap­pointed in the dress­ing room be­cause we didn’t fin­ish the game with the com­po­sure that goals al­low you to do. [But] in the first half, I saw things that ex­cited me.”

Oth­er­wise, though, it would be kind to Brazil to say Telford ever looked trou­bled. Eng­land dom­i­nated the of­f­colour 2018 Copa Amer­ica Fe­menina win­ners in what was only Neville’s sec­ond home game in charge. Brazil’s most po­tent at­tack­ing threat, six-times Fifa World Player of the Year Marta, re­quested to come off af­ter 22 min­utes with a ham­string twinge, and de­fender Bruna was with­drawn less than 20 min­utes later.

It meant the vis­i­tors ended up with Bar­bara, Mon­ica and Raquel all on the pitch in­side the first half, which is also what would hap­pen if your favourite three sit­coms merged for a cross­over episode, but they never looked likely to pro­vide a ri­poste to a side who used swash­buck­ling ob­du­racy as much as their tech­ni­cal flair.

Eng­land’s 4-2-3-1 glit­tered with the front four of Par­ris, Kirby, Toni Dug­gan and Rachel Daly, with reign­ing PFA Women’s Player of the Year Kirby the im­por­tant link­ing piece. The Chelsea for­ward al­most added an as­sist with a sub­lime flick over Bruna for Daly to clip a half-vol­ley marginally wide.

Par­ris could have added one of her own just shy of the half-hour mark af­ter skin­ning Camilla again to fire into the side-net­ting, be­fore Daly nearly clinched the goal her per­for­mance mer­ited when she latched on to Alex Green­wood’s pass for Brazil keeper Bar­bara to save from point-blank range.

Eng­land had to make do with just the one goal, but with a con­vinc­ing mid­field per­for­mance in front of the big­gest crowd at Meadow Lane all sea­son. The goal was met with a mix of ap­plause and boos.

Ear­lier, how­ever, on Ron­aldo’s ar­rival at Da­cia Arena, fans had cheered and yelled his name. There was no sig­nif­i­cant re­ac­tion to his name be­ing read out for the team in­tro­duc­tions be­fore kick-off.

Kathryn May­orga filed a law­suit last week in Ne­vada say­ing she was raped by Ron­aldo in Las Ve­gas in 2009.

Po­lice have re­opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Ron­aldo has ve­he­mently de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tion and promised to clear his name.

Ron­aldo’s mother, Maria Dolores Aveiro, sent her son a mes­sage on In­sta­gram yes­ter­day, which read: “Good luck son and for your team be­cause to­gether we are stronger.”

Fran-tas­tic: Eng­land striker Fran Kirby wheels away in de­light af­ter her goal in the sec­ond minute at Meadow Lane caught out Brazil

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