England Manager Phil Neville Targets Title at 'Most Open' Women's World Cup

Phil Neville doesn't see England as the favorite, but he sees no reason the Lionesses can't compete for glory in France this summer.
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England manager Phil Neville has reiterated his desire to win the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France, having first stated it as his target upon taking over the Lionesses in 2018.

England finished third at the World Cup under Mark Sampson in 2015 and have impressed at the annual SheBelieves Cup in the years since. Neville oversaw a demolition of France in that mini tournament last year and expects great things from a talented squad.

"It's probably going to be the most open World Cup in terms of who's going to win it. And we're preparing to make sure we have to be at our best," he told FIFA.com this week.

"I said on day one I want to win the World Cup. That wasn't me being arrogant or big-headed, that was the challenge I set myself and for my group of players. At Canada 2015, we came third. So progression is to get to the final, progression is to become better than third."

Neville insisted that while England will have to be at their best at the World Cup, so too will the three favorites USA, Germany and France.

"USA are the No. 1 favorites. You've got to say France are No. 2, because they're the home nation. You can never rule out Germany - we played them in SheBelieves last year and they were physically a fantastic side," he explained.

"So we've got to be at our very best. But so too have USA, France, Germany."

A pundit and coach in men's football after hanging up his boots in 2013, Neville had never previously worked in women's football prior to being appointed by the FA to lead England and encountered much criticism and scepticism upon taking the job.

"I went to an awful lot of games - I still do now, of course - and met a lot of people in the Women's Super League (WSL), women's football, the managers, players etc," he said.

"But you're judged on your results and I felt as if, the minute we beat France 4-1 in my first game, up until then people were waiting for me to fail.

"And then we beat France - with the style of football that we played - and all of a sudden, it had almost put it to bed. From then onwards it felt as if I could start relaxing a little bit and not have to prove to people every minute of every day that I'm going to know about women's football."

England are currently preparing to begin the 2019 SheBelieves Cup.