Lionesses roar for Phil Neville

Goal: England's Toni Duggan, left, celebrates scoring against France.
Goal: England's Toni Duggan, left, celebrates scoring against France.
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Phil Neville hailed his nerveless England Women’s side for dismantling France 4-1 in the SheBelieves Cup opener after admitting to having “a few butterflies”.

The former Manchester United, Everton and England defender received criticism just hours after his appointment in January when historical tweets about women resurfaced.

But head coach Neville’s reign on the pitch got up and running in emphatic fashion following goals from Toni Duggan, Jill Scott and Jodie Taylor inside 37 minutes.

Fran Kirby added a fourth shortly after half-time, but Gaetane Thiney denied Neville a first clean sheet with a deflected effort 13 minutes from time.

Victory means England defeated France for just the second time in 19 matches and Neville was delighted to see his side rise to the increased scrutiny after his appointment.

He said: “I was a little bit nervous before the game, I had a few butterflies, but my players didn’t. That’s the most important thing.

“There is great expectation and I love that expectation. On the bus, on the way to the ground, it felt right.

“It felt right standing in the technical area and the most important thing is the players are enjoying the raised expectations and the higher profile.”

Neville also showed his appreciation for his team’s work ethic throughout the match but picked out Kirby as the outstanding performer.

Neville added: “We did have a game-plan. We know they have quality players – (Eugenie) Le Sommer on the left-hand side, (Amandine) Henry in the middle. They are good players and you can tell that they have quality.

“We had to make sure we defended, Nikita (Parris) did a fantastic job in front of Lucy Bronze and Mel Lawley when she came on and did the same thing.

“But I have to say Fran Kirby was amazing in the first half. She caused them all sorts of problems and she had that bit of quality that was too good for them.

“We have struggled against France and to beat them 4-1 in these type of conditions where it was cold, it was raining, it was snowing, it was sleeting and the style of football that we played, was really pleasing.”

Taylor feels the result was well deserved as the Lionesses prepare to face Germany tomorrow before taking on USA on Thursday. “This is such a prestigious tournament and the focus coming into this was to be ruthless and to be organised.”