Forget the crowds and focus on winning – that’s Phil Neville’s message to the Lionesses ahead of Saturday’s sold-out showdown with Germany at Wembley, writes Ella Jerman.
The Lionesses are on the brink of making women’s football history with up to 90,000 fans expected to attend Saturday’s friendly at the home of football – almost twice as many as the current record of 45,619, established when they lost 3-0 to Germany at Wembley in 2014.
The sell-out follows a summer in which the Lionesses captured the imagination of the nation with their run to the World Cup semi-final, but to keep the momentum going, Neville is urging his players to ‘ignore the sideshow’ and focus on putting on a performance worthy of the Wembley occasion.
“We’re letting other people enjoy what’s going to be a historical occasion, and we’re focusing totally on the performance,” said the England boss.
“I want to see us play at the highest level we reached in the summer, and better that.
“We’re playing the second-best team in the world with great experience and great players. When you get to games like this, experience tells me you need to forget the sideshow going on around it.
“We need to be 100 per cent focused. Yes, it’s going to be a good show, but we want to win the game.”
England’s success at this summer’s World Cup sparked unprecedented growth in participation across all levels of the women’s game, with the FA revealing earlier this week that more than 850,000 women have taken up the sport since June.
The Lionesses have left an incredible legacy, but since then their own form has taken a turn for the worst, Neville’s side only winning one of their six matches since the semi-final defeat to the USA.
Tests don’t come bigger for the Lionesses than facing two-time world champions and eight-time European champions Germany, but Neville believes facing tougher opposition is the key to making progress.
“This type of occasion is exactly what these players need,” added Neville.
“Coming off the back of the World Cup, we all reached a massive emotional high. We’ve found it difficult to get back up to that high, both mentally and physically, but this is the type of game where there are no excuses.
“We will have three or four of these big occasions in the lead-up to the Euros, so we need to learn to play under this kind of pressure and expectation.
“My players now see themselves at the highest level, They want and need this kind of challenge to go out there and perform.”