England buying into Neville’s vision
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