- England beat Brazil and drew with Australia in friendly match-ups
- Fran Kirby scored two in two games
- Phil Neville: "We've got to be more ruthless"
In the space of just three days, Phil Neville has seen his England side play twice against sides the Lionesses could come up against at the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™. Faced with stern tests against South American champions Brazil, led by The Best FIFA Women's Player Marta, and Asia's top-ranked side Australia, Neville's side held their own. They defeated A Seleção 1-0 and conceded a late equaliser against the Matildas to draw 1-1.
In the face of such tough opposition, the England coach will have learned plenty in the first outings for the Lionesses since they secured their spot at France 2019. FIFA.com takes a look at three lessons England will have taken from their friendly double-header - which also pose some food for thought for Neville.
The Kirby conundrum
Fran Kirby was at her clinical best against Brazil and Australia, scoring inside two minutes against the South Americans, and midway through the first half against the Antipodeans. The nature of both goals, a flashing header and a lightning-quick swivel and shot, demonstrated Kirby's ability as the ultimate penalty box predator. However, Neville employed the Chelsea forward in both the No9 and No10 roles across the two games. Does Kirby's penalty box prowess demonstrate she is best when leading the line?
"It's been a great week for me, disappointed that we couldn't get the win [against Australia] but we're going to learn from it and see what we can do better."
Fran Kirby, England forward
Mead makes her case
Arsenal's Beth Mead was given half-an-hour to shine against Brazil, and she made an instant impression. Moments after her introduction, the forward swept a superb volleyed ball wide to start an England attack and set the tone for her harrying substitute performance.
Given a start against Australia, Mead picked up where she left off against the South Americans, a constant thorn in the side of the Matildas' defence with incisive runs and relentless pressing. Her speed of thought saw her capitalise on an error by Aussie goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold to lay on an assist for Kirby's strike. With England boasting an array of attacking options, Mead has done her chances of a spot on the plane to France no harm whatsoever.
"We played some good stuff, we should be winning that game 3-0 or 4-0. Maybe 1-1, we can go away now and see where we have to improve. We've got to be more ruthless, we've got to put the chances away. We were careless in front of goal. I've learned more about my team tonight than I have done in the last six or seven months. Maybe tonight was a bit of a reality check, what we have to actually do."
Neville's frank assessment at the conclusion of the game against Australia was perhaps the ultimate lesson that the former Manchester United man will take from the two friendly fixtures. Against Brazil, his defence - marshalled well by captain Steph Houghton - was dealt few challenges and kept a clean sheet with relative ease.
The late equaliser against a physically imposing Matildas side - after England had spurned innumerable opportunities to stretch their one-goal advantage - came from a set-piece, something Neville will likely be wary of as his focus turns to France.