Neville: England defence not a ‘massive problem’

Date published: Sunday 5th June 2016 12:01

England: Heading to France

England: Heading to France

Phil Neville is confident England’s heavily-scrutinised defence will not prove a “massive problem” at Euro 2016.

Roy Hodgson’s men head to France on Monday having won all three of their preparation matches, following up 2-1 victories over Australia and Turkey by beating Portugal 1-0 at Wembley.

It was England’s first clean sheet of the year and a welcome boost after individual errors led to goals at the Etihad Stadium and Stadium of Light.

Former Manchester United and Three Lions defender Neville is happy enough with the backline, though, and their ability to cope in France.

“I think too much is being made of the defence, to be honest with you,” he said.

“When you have so much attacking talent and the emphasis has been on attacking, your defence is going to suffer.

“You do probably leave yourself a little bit more open or exposed. I think the biggest thing with the defence is that they’ve got to cut out the individual errors a little bit.

“You are going into a tournament where you get punished for every little error.

“That is probably the experience and the advice that the management will probably be giving the defence – cut out the individual errors, make sure you concentrate because you’ll get punished at this level.

“But in terms of it being a massive problem, I don’t see it being a massive problem.

“Behind the back four, we’ve got one of the best goalkeepers in Europe, in the competition.

“Individually, the back four are all good players. Now they have to play as a unit and they probably have to be protected a little bit more by the people in front of them.”

Neville went to three European Championships as an England player, the last of which was 12 years ago when John Terry, Sol Campbell, Jamie Carragher and Ledley King were the centre-back options.

It is strength in depth that Hodgson cannot call upon on now, but the 59-cap former full-back is backing the current crop to get it right.

“If you look back to Tony Adams, Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, these were great defenders,” Neville said, speaking at The Three Lions pub as part of Carlsberg’s ‘Pubstitutions’ campaign.

“But Chris Smalling has had a fantastic season, John Stones is going to be, I think, one of the top central defenders and Gary Cahill is consistent all the time.

“These players are getting better. Now it is getting the combination right, the understanding right and, like I said before, cutting out individual errors.”

Phil’s brother, Gary, will play a key role in that organisation given the former United defender and Valencia boss is one of Hodgson’s coaches.

The coaching team oversaw a 100% record in qualifying for the Euros and Neville has been impressed by the way youth complements the more experienced members of the group.

“I am excited,” he said. “I think the qualifying campaign was successful, relatively quick and straightforward.

“I think we got more from the friendlies than the qualifying. I think the performances against France, Holland and Germany, which in particular was a great sign about how far this team can go. 2-0 down, win 3-2.

“We are definitely going in the right direction, I am almost convinced of that.

“We’ve got more energy, I think we’ve got a better balance to the team.

“I think, more importantly, we can score goals. To be successful you have to score goals and now we’ve got just one or two, we’ve got four or five goalscorers in the squad that can win a game, change a game and hopefully make us successful.”

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