Women's World Cup 2019: Phil Neville not surprised by France penalty and rule change controversy

Mark Critchley
The Independent

Phil Neville believes his England side is fully briefed and prepared for football’s latest rule changes ahead of Wednesday’s final group game with Japan, having seen VAR cause controversy across the Women’s World Cup.

Neville claimed not be surprised that France were controversially allowed to retake their penalty against Nigeria on Monday night when goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie was penalised for coming off her goal-line.

England have already benefitted from recent changes to the handball rule, with Nikita Parris converting from the spot against Scotland after Nicola Docherty was penalised for an apparently unintentional offence.

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“The penalty decision wasn’t a grey area for anyone who’s had those meetings in the World Cup,” Neville said. “You guys probably don’t agree with the rule itself, never mind the decision. When we saw that last night, we weren’t surprised.

“Our three goalkeepers have grilled the referees about the rules and what is expected. Those are the rules. It’s like our penalty against Scotland, as soon as it happened we’d been taught that it would be given as a penalty.

“You can actually say VAR is working,” Neville added. “Those are the rules, and the referees and the VARs are agreeing to the rules that are in place and that we’ll see next season as well.”

Lucy Bronze, the England defender, was not fazed by the decision either. “Watching the game last night, it is the rule book. Our goalkeepers asked the referees about over and over about this question so that we were clear on every single rule.

“It’s something we’re very aware of. There are rule changes and VAR that we need to be aware of, but as long as we know what we’re doing and follow the rules as best we can we’ll be fine.”

Neville intends to play a full-strength side against Japan, despite England having already qualified for the knock-out stages. A draw in Nice will be enough to ensure that the Lionesses top the group.

In last year’s men’s World Cup, Gareth Southgate rested players in the final group game but Neville has no such plans. “I’m going to play my best team,” he said. “We want to finish top of the group, we want to win the game.

“After the first two games, we’ve seen a massive surge in momentum from winning. There’s confidence, the players are bouncing around the hotels, they’re happy. The attention on us is positive. We want to keep that.

“The players are under no illusions about my expectations, about needing to win the game tomorrow night. There are two routes you can take, there are pitfalls in both routes, but we just want to make sure we keep winning every single game and hopefully we’ll be successful.”

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