Neville says England will 'use all the ammunition we've got to win' at SheBelieves 2020

The fifth edition of the SheBelieves Cup kicks off this evening and sees England look to defend their 2019 title.

Spain face Japan at 9.15pm (UK time) before the Lionesses take on hosts USA at midnight. Both games will take place at the Exploria Stadium in Orlando.

Phil Neville's young squad – seven players included won bronze at the 2018 U20 World Cup – has raised questions about how England are viewing the tournament.

In it to win it

Neville, who made his Lionesses managerial debut at the 2018 SheBelieves Cup, insists his team are there to keep hold of the trophy.

He said: 'It's a tournament – we arrive with the trophy in our hands and we want to make sure that when we land back at Heathrow we still have the trophy with us.

'I don't think it is a tournament where I am going to treat it as an experiment. We want to win, the players want to win and if we experiment against the USA we'll get beat.

'You've got to go out there and use every golf club in the bag, use all the ammunition you've got, to beat these teams.'

The match with the USA is, of course, attracting a lot of attention – England have unfinished business there from last year's World Cup.

Neville said: 'We did a lot of work before Christmas on the semi final and performances in the World Cup.

'Ultimately, you look at the biggest test and biggest challenges and the games we’ve played against the US have been our biggest test.

'They've also been the games when I have found out more about my players than I have in any other game that we have played.

'It is like anything, you want to knock the top one off the tree and at the moment they are the top ones and rightly so.

'I think it’s becoming a real rivalry between us. The games have been really tight and really competitive.

'The way our players have been talked about now is getting close to the way people talk about the US players.

'From a player to player point of view I think our players and their players will be relishing this even more.

'You think of the Titanic battles that club sides have had against each other, we want to recreate that.

'You always fall our with your biggest competition, your biggest threat, and we want to be the biggest threat to them.

'We want to overtake them. That’s the aim – not just to get level with them, we want to overtake them.

'The more we play them, the more that we compete against them the more confidence we’ll have.'

Japan and Spain tough tests

But it's not just the world leaders England will face a tough game against to retain their trophy: Japan and Spain will pose threats too.

Neville says: 'Japan are preparing for an Olympic Games in their own country. They have been in training camps for the last two years, preparing for that moment in the summer.

'If you think about their cohesion, team work, they've been picking young players for the last two years for this moment in three months time [the Olympics].

'Spain are a rapidly improving team who were knocked out of the World Cup by the USA by a small margin in the summer.

'We can't experiment. We just have to make sure we trust the players we are putting on the pitch, pick the right tactics and we've got to go out there and deliver, deliver in a way which we probably haven't done for the last six games.'

Recent form is a concern for Neville going into the tournament. Since the World Cup the Lionesses have beaten Portugal and the Czech Republic, drawn with Belgium and lost to Norway, Brazil and Germany.

He said: 'We believe we've got strong foundations but we also believe that some of the performances haven't been up to the levels – and sometimes have been unacceptable.'

'We know we have the foundations of what we think is a successful team and squad. We just need to make sure we keep striving to be better and not stand still.

'When you stand still, people overtake you. We have made brave decisions and will continue to plough forward.

'I'd like a clean sheet first. That is what you start with and that is what I want to finish with.

'That is something we realise that we have to be better at. Our style of football means that we are going to be open and probably concede the odd goal but just need to make sure our concentration is better and our defensive mindset is better.'

Olympics pending

As to whether SheBelieves is an audition for the Olympics later this year, Neville is clear on his position. He said: 'This is an England camp, we've got another England camp in April and we are focusing on it being an England camp.

'The work being done for the Olympics is being done outside of camps. I can't impact on the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland players so it would be unfair for me to go to the She Believes and talk about the Olympics.

'I have stopped all of my staff talking about the Olympics, and I will stop the players talking about the Olympics. We are here to play for the Lionesses.

'When June/July comes we'll start talking about the Olympics.

'There is a lot of work being done by all of my staff in terms of scouting, preparing, speaking to players on the lists, but this is an England game.

'You start getting side tracked by other things going on in the background – as we saw with the first six months of the season – get distracted a little bit, you get found out and we can't afford that to happen.

'We can't go to the SheBelieves and start talking about the development for the Olympics when there are 10 to 15, or 20 players that can go to the Olympics who are not even there.'

Winning breeds confidence

He does believe, though, that winning a successive SheBelieves title would allow his players to take confidence into future tournaments.

Neville said: 'If we win SheBelieves does that signal our intent to win the Olympics? Well we won SheBelieves last year and we didn’t win the World Cup.

'But every SheBelieves I’ve been to, it is the best tournament in terms of players mindsets.

'This is the one they see as the big one, outside of major tournaments, because the US are in it, the best team in the world.

'They want to play them, they want to be better than them, they want to challenge them, and it’s no different this year.

'Will it have any influence on us winning the Euros or Olympic gold? A little bit, because it give you the confidence and belief, but ultimately you’ve still got to peak at major tournaments.'

Neville hopes that the coming week will see his players demonstrate the behaviours needed to peak at major tournaments. He said: 'I want to see the togetherness, the spirit, the determination to win.

'Regardless of the fresh young players that we’ve got in the team, the fantastic older players that we’ve got in the team and the experience that we’ve got amongst the whole party; football is about winning.

'It’s about going out there and winning the game – about beating the best team in the world, beating Japan, beating Spain.

'I don’t care what sport you play, when you’re playing in a competition, playing in a tournament, actually finishing first matters because that gives you the drive, the determination and the confidence to then go to an Olympic Games, a Euros with the fact that you have competed against the best.'