By Harry Awurumibe
Football has once again proved to be like a biscuit which nobody knows where it could break into pieces as the lowly rated Team New Zealand this afternoon inflicted an unforgettable 1-0 defeat to England at Brighton’s Amex Stadium.
It was supposed to be a glorious farewell match for English fans to bid their team goodbye as they go to France for the 8th FIFA Women’s World Cup final which begins on Friday, June 7 but a 50th minute goal by Gregorius handed New Zealand a heartwarming victory while to brought sadness to the England players and fans.
But England women’s national team manager, Phil Neville insists his side’s defeat in their final warm-up game will not change their preparations for the Women’s World Cup.
“A bad result isn’t going to change the way we go about things,” Neville said after the tie.. “The players know we are on the right track.”It was frustrating, we played some really good football but once they got a goal it was always going to be difficult. The girls gave everything, they’ve worked hard.”
Neville revealed in his post-match press conference that England were missing four players on Saturday because of ‘minor knocks’.
But he stressed that Demi Stokes, Rachel Daly, Mary Earps and Jade Moore should all resume training on Wednesday, and none of them were doubts for 9 June’s Scotland game.
“The disappointing thing is that we got an unbelievable crowd here and we haven’t got the win they deserved. The real thing starts next week,” Neville added.
“Certain players needed minutes. We will need every single player to be up to speed for the tournament.”
The visitors took the lead shortly after half-time from only their second attack, as Gregorius poked home on the rebound after Carly Telford spilled Rosie White’s shot, amid some slack England defending.
The home side created the vast majority of the chances, dominating the possession and territory, but were unable to find a way through in front of a crowd of 20,076.
The defeat was England’s second in four games of their ‘Road to France’ series, following April’s 1-0 loss to Canada and well-deserved victories over Spain and Denmark.
The Lionesses get their World Cup campaign under way against Scotland in Nice on Sunday, 9 June after hosts France open the tournament against South Korea on Friday.
England, who are among the pre-tournament favourites to win the world title this summer, will then face Argentina on 14 June and 2011 champions Japan on 19 June, with Neville’s side bidding to improve on 2015’s third-place finish.
Should England top Group D, a last-16 meeting with New Zealand in Valenciennes on 23 June is not beyond the realms of possibility, with the winners of Group D set to meet a third-placed side from Group B, E or F, and the Football Ferns are the third-highest ranked side in Group E.
New Zealand, who had won three and lost three of their previous six games in 2019 – including a 5-0 defeat at the hands of the United States – are ranked 19th in the world and England will see this result as a significant disappointment on the eve of this summer’s finals.