The English Women’s National Team has been riding a hot streak through their opening matches in the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Yet, with only one day remaining before their matchup against Norway in the quarterfinals, they may be finally hitting some speedbumps, according to The Guardian. With England currently coping with players suffering from illness and injury along with an unprecedented heatwave striking Europe, they could be facing a perfect storm of bad luck as the English women aim to make a consecutive appearance in the semifinal. However, manager Phil Neville is unfazed.
A vomiting illness striking England’s star defenders Millie Bright and Lucy Bronze has put the likelihood that their most consistent pairing of the tournament is unlikely to start. Of the two, Bronze is the more likely to make a start given that she has been coping with the illness longer, which also provides hope for Bright if England does indeed get past Norway.
While England’s depth may be enough to cover the missing players in defense, there would be no replacement for the absence of captain Steph Houghton. Houghton was the victim of a dirty foul by Cameroon in their matchup on Sunday and while the English medical team put her under intensive care from that moment, Neville admitted that it is a “major doubt” that Houghton will be involved in the match on Thursday.
With such influential players missing, most teams would crumble. However, during his tenure as manager, Neville has been operating a somewhat controversial rotation policy which he believes will ensure that the squad is ready to step in.
“People have an obsession with rotation but it’s for moments like this,” said Neville. “It means it’s no problem now. If Steph and Millie are out we bring someone else in, no problem. It will be a seamless transition. Everyone knows the system, the way we play. I’ve utter belief in all my players.”
As for the heat, with temperatures in Le Havre expecting to reach 80 degrees on Thursday, Neville reassured the media that his team had been training for weeks to prepare for such conditions.
“I like it being hot and we’ve planned for it,” said the England manager. “If we keep passing it well, the ball won’t get tired. It’s our English mentality to worry about the weather. For two weeks at St George’s Park, my players essentially lived in a sauna. We wore thermals. The players enjoy hot weather, we feel good in the heat.”
While Neville spoke with complete confidence, he did make the admission that his wife Julie was “lighting candles and saying prayers” to cope with her nervousness while following the team from the family home in Manchester.