SuperSport | England coach Phil Neville has made clear his team cannot afford to underestimate Cameroon when the sides meet in the last 16 of the women’s World Cup on Sunday.
After emerging from their group with three wins out of three, England are heavy favourites to beat a Cameroon side ranked 46th in the world at the Stade du Hainaut in Valenciennes.
The Indomitable Lionesses made it through to the knockout phase with just three points by virtue of a 95th-minute goal to beat New Zealand and will go into the tie with the pressure off.
“They are a team that is very unpredictable. I don’t think they are the 46th-best team in the world, I think they are better than that,” Neville warned on Saturday.
“They’ve got dangerous players in the attacking third and they are a team that will go for the victory and that is not something we have really experienced so far at this World Cup, a team that will just go for the victory, flood players forward, play balls in behind, and will take risks and gamble.”
England rounded out their group-stage campaign by defeating former World Cup winners Japan 2-0, a victory achieved despite Neville making eight changes to his line-up.
Neville, who said that all of his players are fit and healthy, has made a habit of rotating his squad and stressed the importance of having strength in depth – and players who won’t complain when left out of the team – as England’s women aim to win the World Cup for the first time.
“The players that are not being selected have been the reason why we have won the first three games, without a shadow of a doubt,” he claimed.
“The support, the encouragement, it plays a major part in what we are about and that has to get even better because when you name a team as the tournament goes on, the disappointment and emotion gets even stronger.
“You want to keep all 23 players happy and that is impossible, but what we have said to the players now is that it’s about winning.”
He added: “It’s these games that make you nervous, give you butterflies, give you the excitement. That is why we are here, and tomorrow night will be the first knockout hopefully of four.”
England will again have to deal with testing weather conditions in Sunday’s game with temperatures expected to reach close to 30 degrees in northern France.
However, the fact they have had one day longer than their opponents to prepare for this tie could play into their hands, even if Cameroon coach Alain Djeumfa insisted his team would not be affected.
“I can assure you that the players will be as fresh as in the last match and will be determined and ready to give everything to try to write history by getting to the quarterfinals,” he said.