His appointment earlier this year may have garnered a rather mixed reaction, but Phil Neville has enjoyed a positive first tournament as manager of the England Women team after the Lionesses finished second in the SheBelieves Cup.

The invitational round robin competition has been held annually since 2016 and every 12 months pits England against France, Germany and the United States on American soil - together the four strongest women's teams on the planet over the last few years.

England, third in FIFA's most recent official world rankings, started in magnificent style by hammering France 4-1. Neville's team were 3-0 up at half-time, before making is 4-0 straight after the interval. Only a late consolation goal from the French dented a perfect night.

France had won the 2017 edition of the SheBelieves Cup and it was certainly a statement win.

Next up, England faced Germany, ranked one place higher by FIFA. After going a goal down early, Neville's team struck back a minute later when Ellen White equalised. Germany's lead was restored after half-time, but White bagged a second with 20 minutes left to secure a 2-2 draw.


The level of competition was shown by the fact that France held the United States, number one in the world and 2015 World Cup winners, to a 1-1 draw in that day's other game. In their final game, the French then battered Germany 3-0, leaving England and the US to play for the title.

Given their superior goal difference, England needed only a draw to lift the trophy, but a tight contest in Orlando was decided by a single own goal from goalkeeper Karen Bardsley to hand the host US their second SheBelieves Cup in three years.

But even finishing in second place for England marked an improvement after placing third in each of the previous two tournaments, while further highlighting their ability to now match the very best international teams in the world on a consistent basis.

"It was tough, but probably the most enjoyable game for me in the tournament because we came up against a really good team. I said before I wanted us to go toe-to-toe but in the first half we did not show enough belief," Neville told BBC Sport after the US loss.

"But we showed courage on the ball in the last 30 minutes and I learned a lot about my players."


England were the top scorers in this year's competition with six goals from five different players. Two of the four goals they conceded were own goals and Neville is confident that other mistakes can also be removed from the performances moving forward.

The big target now is next year's World Cup in France, where England will be hoping to improve on their showing in Canada in 2015 where they finished third.

"It is not now that I want to win tournaments, but in 12 months [at the World Cup]," Neville said.