|SheBelieves Cup 2020|
|Dates: 5-11 March Venues: Exploria Stadium (Orlando, Florida), Red Bull Arena (New Jersey), Toyota Stadium (Frisco, Texas)|
|Coverage: TV coverage of every England game on BBC Two/BBC Four and BBC iPlayer. Live text coverage on the BBC website.|
England’s defence of their SheBelieves Cup title got off to a disappointing start as two quick second-half goals condemned them to defeat against world champions the United States in Orlando.
It was a sixth defeat in nine games for Phil Neville’s side, who have struggled for form since losing to the USA in the World Cup semi-finals.
Christen Press’s superb long-range curler put the hosts ahead shortly after half-time and Carli Lloyd made it 2-0 two minutes later.
Midfielder Julie Ertz also had a goal ruled out for offside late in the second half as the USA went on to dominate.
The World Cup winners had numerous chances – Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle were denied in the first half – while England’s Nikita Parris was offside when she had a close-range header saved.
England face Japan, ranked 10th in the world, in their next match at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey on Sunday, 8 March (19:00 GMT kick-off), before playing Spain in the final match of the round-robin event.
Earlier on Thursday, tournament debutants Spain beat Japan 3-1 at the Exploria Stadium thanks to two second-half goals from 21-year-old Lucia Garcia.
Garcia rounded the goalkeeper for both goals after Barcelona midfielder Alexia Putellas and Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi had scored in the first half.
Caught out at the back
Neville made five changes to the starting line-up that narrowly won 3-2 in the Czech Republic and was without injured right-back Lucy Bronze.
Arsenal defender Leah Williamson – naturally a central defender – was drafted in in her place and alongside Steph Houghton, Millie Bright and Alex Greenwood struggled to deal with the runs in behind from the USA’s forwards.
Lloyd exploited the space between the centre-backs on several occasions in the first half, failing to capitalise before eventually putting away her chance to make it 2-0.
Greenwood struggled at left-back and Tobin Heath was a constant source of danger for the USA out wide – putting in crosses and getting on the wrong side of the Lyon defender.
Heath set up Lloyd in the first half but the striker’s first-time shot was straight at Carly Telford, who had a busy evening in goal for England.
Telford had to be alert to palm away a long-range strike from Lavelle in the first half, before blocking Horan’s run after she had managed to squeeze through the two centre-backs.
There was nothing Telford could do about Press’s curling opener though – she was allowed to turn under little pressure as England’s failure to close down the space was punished.
The USA went on to dominate the second half and though England had a few half chances – a dangerous flick-on from Lauren Hemp in the first half that Jill Scott flicked over – they were comfortably second best against the world champions, who have not conceded a single goal since the tournament in France last summer.
‘Huge’ rivalry underwhelms
Before this tournament Neville said England’s aim was to “overtake the USA” as the best team in the world.
But the Lionesses played like a team ranked five places lower – though they were forced to field a weaker team due to injuries to key players Bronze and Beth Mead.
It was a battle being sold as one of the biggest rivalries in women’s football and Ballon d’Or winner Megan Rapinoe said the occasion would be “huge”.
The USA fans certainly did their best to build an atmosphere before kick-off – chanting, banging drums and roaring loudly when their team came out to warm-up, as well as enjoying the fireworks after the national anthems were played.
The 16,000 in attendance were treated to some exciting football from the USA. Rapinoe delivered bursts of quality when she came on as a second-half substitute as England were penned into their half for much of the final 30 minutes.
But all-in-all it was an underwhelming contest in comparison to their meeting at the World Cup eight months ago as England looked second best in all areas of the pitch.
Analysis – ‘Not in the same bracket as USA’
Former England defender Alex Scott, speaking on BBC Two:
I am trying to find positives from this game but we are not in the same bracket as the USA, we are below.
We have a huge 16 months to raise the level. We need to go into the home Euros next year better than we are showing. We need to find a winning mentality. Carli Lloyd dominated us in this match.
If we’re seriously talking about wanting to win gold medals, we need to up our levels in all areas.
People judge you on results. As the months go on you need to win, you need to be showing up given all the investment going into them. You need to find a way.
Former England forward Lianne Sanderson, speaking on BBC Two:
I feel we have taken massive steps forward before but I think we have gone backwards. It looked like it could have been four or five.
I don’t think Phil Neville got the best out of the players tonight. We look scrappy and there are players on that team who I know can do better than they are.
I don’t want to sound too negative but that just wasn’t good enough.
Player of the match – Carli Lloyd
‘We had opportunities to be ruthless’ – what they said
England manager Phil Neville: “I don’t see a team that lacked confidence in terms of the way we want to play. I see a team trying to play the right way and it feels as if we are so close but yet so far at this moment.
“The first goal was a wonder goal. The second goal was a lapse in concentration. We had chances in the game, opportunities to be ruthless, and we didn’t really commit to it.”
England forward Lauren Hemp on her first start: “It was a really tough match and obviously getting my first start against the best team the world is massive. It’s those games that I want to be playing in, so I loved every minute of it and grew in confidence as the game went on. Now we need to go back to training and recover.
“That’s probably the biggest game I’ve played in, standing out in that national anthem with all the fireworks going off. It’s a moment where I was like: ‘Wow, this is what international football is really like.’ I’d love to be in more occasions like that and be one of the stars in the game.”