England Women head coach ,and ex Manchester United star Phil Neville wants his side to “develop the serial winner mentality” – and warned going home from the World Cup on the back of a semi-final defeat “would represent failure”.
The Lionesses produced the most impressive display of their campaign in France so far with a 3-0 win over Norway on Thursday to progress to the last four of a major tournament for the third successive time.
Waiting next in Lyon on Tuesday night are defending champions the United States, who ended the hosts’ challenge with a 2-1 win at Parc des Princes as they remain very much focused on what would be a fourth World Cup triumph.
It is such determination to be the best which Neville believes the current England squad must emulate if they are to make the most of their opportunity.
“A semi-final defeat would represent failure. This England team is ready to win now,” Neville said, quoted in several national newspapers.
“I think the FA (Football Association) know I am doing a good job but I said to the players this morning that it would be easy now for them to think ‘whatever happens now, we have got to the semi-final, my reputation is intact, we’ll probably get invited to Downing Street, everybody loves us at home’. I don’t want that.
“We have to develop the serial winner mentality. We have to develop that ruthlessness.
“I don’t want us saying that there is no pressure on us. That’s the safe way to think. We have to be even braver.
“The only way for us to go back home is as winners. If we don’t, we have to keep striving to understand that losing in a semi-final is not OK.”
Neville accepts England will have to raise their performance levels yet again to get past the USA, whose “ruthlessness is their strength”.
He said: “We have got to be 20 per cent braver than we have ever been before to win this game.
“This is the game we wanted. We have always known that when we got to the World Cup, we were going to have to beat the USA if we were going to win the tournament.
“We have reached the moment now where we have to deliver. This is the moment my players have been waiting for.
“We are not going to back away from this challenge. We have planned and prepared for this.
“We are in great shape. I don’t think they will look forward to playing us. If they are looking at teams who can challenge them, we will be number one or two on their list.”
Neville had arranged for Dame Katherine Grainger – the most-decorated British female Olympian with five rowing medals, three silvers coming before gold at London 2012 – to record a video for the squad as they prepared for the quarter-final against Norway, for his players to “hear her message – winning hurts”.
He added: “We have to suffer and go beyond our expectations. We have to trust in the pain we have gone through and the sacrifices we have made and go with your heart and your head and accept it is going to hurt.
“What she told them had a more powerful effect than anything I could have said.”
With France losing to the USA, England are among the top three European sides at the World Cup, which will secure a place for Great Britain at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The squad is set to be made up of players from other Home Nations, and Neville is relishing those opportunities ahead.
“I will be the coach that takes the team to the Olympics. I have not thought about it but obviously when the USA won, it confirmed our place in Tokyo and it is exciting,” he said.
“Seven out of the eight teams in the quarter-finals were from Europe and qualifying for the Olympics was one of the targets I had for this year.
“It is going to be very special, but let’s go and win a World Cup first.”