• England Women lift trophy after 3-0 win over Japan
• Victory showed entire squad ‘can deliver when they need to’
After England’s 2-2 draw with the USA in Nashville, Phil Neville was a little stumped when asked to describe what makes his team unique. The togetherness of the group was one of his answers. It is an area the England Women head coach spends a lot of time on. Having not always been in the starting XI himself as a player for Manchester United and Everton, Neville knows better than many just how important a deep but happy squad can be.
England Women meet Japan again in the World Cup group stages in France in June and keeping up the morale of the squad players will be key. “There’s some people that are going to go to a major tournament and not be involved, and that’s a reality and part of being a footballer; we work really hard on the team,” said Williamson. “It’s a hard balance to get when you go away for a tournament, hopefully for the longest time. The fact that we’ve shown today that those players can come and deliver when they need to is really important.”
“This is the toughest game I’ve played in an England shirt. I’m just really happy today to have survived, win a trophy and win 3-0.”
Williamson is used to top-level football with Arsenal, but Japan posed a fresh challenge. “A team like Japan want to dictate what you do and that’s really hard to play against sometimes. A big learning curve for me has been about making the right decisions at the right time while also not losing that front-footed aggressiveness and making sure I chose what they do on the ball rather than the other way around.”
Goalscorer Lucy Staniforth was also handed her first start of the tournament against Japan and she agrees that being made to feel valued is a big part of this squad’s growth: “Whether you play five minutes or all three games you feel like a valuable member of the team.”
Jodie Taylor, who provided the assist for Staniforth’s goal and then planted the ball on the head of Karen Carney for England’s second, has more experience at international level, but the Seattle Reign player was delighted with her impact, having not played in five and a half months. “I got injured in the last game of the season which, on a positive, means I’ve not missed any time with the club but it’s been challenging trying to rehab in an off-season.
“After five and a half months out, to come on against the US and then start this game and help the team win has been unreal. I’m definitely not at my best right now but I’m happy. It’s our fourth time out here, we know it’s no World Cup but we can still enjoy it.”