(Reuters) – Manager Phil Neville said he deliberately disrupted the rhythm of his England women’s team with a double substitution in Tuesday’s 2-1 friendly international win over Spain to test his players’ defensive resolve ahead of the World Cup.
England were leading 2-0 after goals from Beth Mead and Ellen White when Neville replaced midfielder Jade Moore and forward Toni Duggan, who have more than 100 international caps between them, early in the second half.
He sent on the inexperienced duo of Lucy Staniforth and Chioma Ubogagu, handing the initiative back to Spain, who pulled a goal back through Aitana Bonmati 13 minutes after the changes were made.
“I made two substitutions because I wanted the team to suffer, I wanted to see what we were like with them charging at us,” Neville told reporters.
“I knew the substitutions would break the rhythm of our team but I wanted to show how our back four would cope, how our goalkeeper would show up and the midfield players would dig in.”
England hung on for the win and Neville said the plan to force his players out of their comfort zone had worked but highlighted the need for the team to show more composure.
“My players were stretched and it was quite fun watching them outside of their comfort zone, shattered and running from side to side,” he said. “It was a really good workout that went exactly how I wanted it to.
“For us to do well at a World Cup, there are games when we have to dig in and block shots. That’s what I wanted to see and I just said to them that I thought they could have done it better, the next step is to dig in but show composure as well.”
England have warm-up games against Denmark and New Zealand before kicking off their World Cup Group D campaign against Scotland in Nice on June 9. Argentina and Japan are the other teams in the group.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Jennings)