Women’s World Cup: ‘I like Phil Neville’s tough approach’ – Hope Solo

Hope Solo
Fifa Women's World Cup
Host nation: France Dates: 7 June - 7 July 2019
Coverage: Live across BBC TV and Red Button, Radio 5 Live & Sports Extra and the BBC Sport website & App

I like that Phil Neville has a reputation for being tough on his players and didn't have a tonne of experience in the women's game when he was appointed as England head coach 17 months ago.

Often when you go up the ranks in women's football, you start to coach in a certain way. But women's players can handle so much more honesty, directness and tough coaching than anybody gives us credit for.

Nobody told Neville how to coach women and he has had to figure out how to motivate the players, hold them accountable and be tougher on them than perhaps some of the other more experienced coaches in women's football. I like that.

I've always liked a tough coach. Without criticism you're not going to get better.

It's certainly a different stance to USA coach Jill Ellis, who in the past has not shown mistakes to defenders because she thinks it might affect their confidence. I think that's the wrong decision.

If you can't show errors to them, then you're not going to learn. And if you're not strong enough to watch them and figure out what needs to be done differently, then you're really not going to improve.

When I saw this happening with Jill, I asked a lot of times throughout the Olympics: 'Can we watch this set-piece so we figure out how to organise or watch this goal to figure out who left their player?'

She told me time and again she didn't want to hurt anybody's confidence, so we won't look at goals and we won't look at defensive mistakes.

I want to see a coach hold players accountable and is willing to look at errors and address them without worrying about hurting a female player's confidence.

It's really just acting like we can't handle it - and I don't believe that's true.

England need to prove fitness

Neville will give England a chance of winning the World Cup, but I want to see more consistent play in the side, and I want to see them prove their fitness. In the past, I've never seen the England side as being as fit as the US team, and that's something which bothers me.

England have the ability to perhaps win the World Cup. They have a great squad and a fresh way of looking at things with Neville.

But if fitness ends up haunting them I will be very sad and upset for the team, because it's something the coach and the players can control.

Often, the US win because we are fitter going through the course of the tournament than any other country. It can be controlled by the fitness coach and head coach and I'd be very disappointed with Neville if it happens again.

Hope Solo

France has everything to make a beautiful tournament

As I've said in my predictions, hosts France are the team to beat and, after a break from football, I am looking forward to this tournament so much.

I stepped away from the game for three years and moved from Seattle to North Carolina to focus on my own life, outside the game. I was in the public eye too long and I needed some space.

But now that I've been away from football, I feel so rejuvenated to come back and watch the game on an unbiased basis, and I get a little bit emotional because I'm so proud of how far we have come.

I know these women are heroes and put so much sacrifice into providing us with such great entertainment. I'm looking forward to seeing what a tournament should be like for women footballers.

This tournament was meant to be held in France because it has beautiful, football-specific stadiums, it has grass fields and it's a very soccer-intellectual crowd and country. It has everything to make it a wonderful spectacle.

At this World Cup you're going to see a very fast-paced game, skilled players and worldwide rising stars, which is crucial for the game and for commercial dollars.

It is everything that a World Cup should be compared to four years ago in Canada, which was everything a World Cup should not have been.

We were playing on artificial turf fields in front of half-empty stadiums with bad security. The Canadian Soccer Association did not put on a great tournament, but France is doing everything it can to help the growth of the women's game on a worldwide basis.

We're in a great spot with women's football right now, and the sport can speak for itself.

Hope Solo was speaking to BBC Sport's Alistair Magowan.

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women's sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women's sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.

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