Phil Neville’s England squad for the 2019
Women’s World Cup has the perfect blend of experienced internationals and young, exciting
players going to their first major tournament. Neville’s squads have had a familiarity
to them since he picked his first squad back in February 2018, with 15 of those 23 heading
to France this summer. In midfielder Jill Scott and forward Karen
Carney, both will be going to their fourth World Cups with England, a feat matched only
in either side of the sport by Sir Bobby Charlton. Eight players will be going to their first
major tournament of any sort, with Neville easing in the new generation of players including
Arsenal’s Leah Williamson and Manchester City duo Keira Walsh and PFA Young Player
of the Year Georgia Stanway. Three further players, Nikita Parris, Millie
Bright and Rachel Daly, who were all part of Mark Sampson’s Euro 2017 squad, are heading
to their first World Cup, ensuring only 12 of Neville’s 23 players have been to a World
Cup in the past. Of those 12, Neville certainly has plenty
of experience to call upon, with seven of his players over the age of 30, three of them
centurions, including captain Steph Houghton who received her 100th cap at the end of 2018
in a friendly match against Sweden. Two of the players over 30 are in goal, but
it’s not clear yet who Neville’s number one will be in France. Manchester City’s
Karen Bardsley has held the spot down at the last few major tournaments and sits on 75
caps, but Chelsea’s Carly Telford has been favoured by Neville despite having not played
a single minute at any of her three major tournaments so far in her career.
Mary Earps will travel as the third goalkeeper after going to Euro 2017 as a non-squad player,
the Wolfsburg goalkeeper has just five caps to her name and will likely play the back-up
role to Bardsley and Telford. In defence, Neville’s first choice back
four will likely not differ too much to his predecessor’s, but injuries have ensured
we haven’t yet seen a potential line-up of Lucy Bronze, Houghton, Millie Bright and
Demi Stokes under the former Manchester United man’s leadership.
Bronze, who has just won her second Champions League in a row with Lyon, is often named
by Neville as the best player in the world and she certainly has an argument to be thought
of as the best right-back in this summer’s tournament.
Captain Houghton and Chelsea’s Millie Bright have consistently been England’s first choice
pairing when fit while Stokes returned from a lengthy period out with a hip injury at
the end of last year and has regularly split duties with Manchester United captain Alex
Greenwood who will be fighting for the left-back spot with Stokes.
Elsewhere in defence, Neville has called on the versatility of Williamson, Daly and Abbie
McManus. Williamson is one of the younger members of the squad but her form for title-winning
Arsenal has more than justified her spot. Daly and McManus are arguably the two most
versatile members of the squad, a trait Neville knows all about himself from his own playing
career. Daly plays in a more attacking role for Houston
Dash in the USA and was one of the top scorers in the NWSL last year, but for England has
more often been used at right-back, while McManus can cover all three defensive positions.
In midfield, Neville’s options are thinner than other parts of the field with Arsenal’s
Jordan Nobbs out through injury and Lyon’s Izzy Christiansen also absent from the squad
after a spell out injured. The experience and creative influence of Carney
and the goal-threat Scott has offered under Neville ensure valuable options while Jade
Moore’s return to the squad after the injury couldn’t be more timely.
Moore was often a ‘big game’ player under Mark Sampson while Neville has also selected
Birmingham’s Lucy Staniforth and recent FA Cup final goal scorers Walsh and Stanway
from Manchester City. Walsh, just 22, came of age in England’s
recent SheBelieves Cup win while Stanway offers a threat as either the number 10 or a second
striker, with a powerful shot and long-range goals now a trademark for the 20-year-old.
In attack, Neville is likely call upon Ellen White as his starting number nine. White’s
record over the past two domestic seasons has been near flawless and her ability to
both hold up play and run in behind offer several different options for Neville.
She’ll be complemented by Fran Kirby who has been used predominantly in a number ten
role for England, becoming the key attacking unit. When Kirby is on the ball, England look
a threat, but the attack looks a little quiet when Kirby has an off day.
Should either of those two players falter, Neville
also has new Lyon signing Nikita Parris, the top English-scoring player in the most recent
FA WSL season. Barcelona’s Toni Duggan offers another option
and can play as both the left winger and the striker, while Arsenal’s Beth Mead is one
of the most in-form players in terms of both goals and assists at the moment and worked
her way into the argument for a starting spot at the SheBelieves Cup.
To cap off an almost embarrassment of riches up top, Neville also has Euro 2017 Golden
Boot winner Jodie Taylor as a back-up to White, so there’s no reason for the Lionesses to
be short of goals once the tournament gets underway against Scotland on June 9th.