Phil Neville: England boss worried by refereeing standards at Women’s World Cup

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England suffer controversial calls in draw with Australia

England head coach Phil Neville says he is concerned the standard of refereeing at next year’s Women’s World Cup could negatively impact the game’s growth.

Neville’s side were on the wrong end of some contentious decisions in a 1-1 draw against Australia on Tuesday.

The Lionesses were denied two penalties and had a goal wrongly disallowed before Australia equalised late on.

“Having VAR at the World Cup does not worry me, the standard of refereeing does,” Neville said.

“If we want to make the women’s game absolute top, we are putting the players under immense pressure to challenge them to be better professionals and have better quality – every country in the world is on the same pathway, not just England – and then I see a performance like that tonight.

“That is my biggest concern.”

Unlike this year’s men’s World Cup in Russia, there will be no VAR (video assistant referee) system at the Women’s World Cup in 2019.

‘Referee’s decision was a mystery’

England, who are ranked third in the world, reached next summer’s World Cup in France by topping their qualification group and are aiming to surpass their third-place finish in 2015.

Facing an Australian side ranked sixth but without key players, Neville’s team dominated the friendly at Craven Cottage without being able to add to Fran Kirby’s 21st-minute opener.

Lucy Staniforth’s sweeping finish was ruled out for offside at the end of the first half before a clumsy tackle on Beth Mead in stoppage-time was deemed to be fair by referee Florence Guillemin.

The French official also ruled Nikita Parris was not fouled when she was clipped in the Australia box, moments before the visitors scored a late equaliser through Clare Polkinghorne.

“Beth Mead’s not dived for the first decision – there’s clear contact,” Neville said.

“The second decision was a strange one. I am 40 yards away and the ref is 20 yards away.

“She has looked across at her assistant and asked her to help her out when everyone in Fulham could see it was a penalty. It is a mystery.

“She should be brave enough to make the decision herself.”

Neville bemoans lack of killer instinct

Neville took over as England manager in January, replacing Mark Sampson who was sacked by the Football Association in September 2017 after evidence of “inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour” in a previous role.

Former Manchester United and England defender Neville has won six, drawn three and lost one of his 10 matches in charge, including four World Cup qualifying victories.

Their build-up to next year’s finals continued with a 1-0 win against Brazil on Saturday and the draw against Australia – both matches which Neville feels his team should have won by convincing margins.

“We weren’t ruthless enough,” he said.

“These last two games have been frustrating, that the players who have worked so hard have not got their just rewards by beating Brazil and Australia 3-0 or 4-0.

“That is not being disrespectful to both countries, who are really good teams and will do well in the World Cup. That is what I saw on the balance of both games.

“I take responsibility for the chances because every single day I go on about freedom of expression, passing the ball, dribbling and one on ones. Maybe it is time to go back to ‘just leather the ball into the back of the net’.”

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