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WORLD CUP NOTES: United States show up at rivals' hotel

England head coach Phil Neville - Reuters

LYON, Rance — It is tough for England to get through a major soccer tournament without some sort of conspiracy arising.

The latest came in the form of a spying allegation at the team hotel on Sunday.

While England was at a training session, staff members from the United States paid a visit to their hotel stating their aim was to assess the facility as possible accommodation if they move on to the final Sunday.

United States head coach Jill Ellis did not understand why it was an issue, nor did she think it arrogant her team was already looking at arrangements for the final prior to playing England the semifinal at the Stade de Lyon on Tuesday.

“I would assume everybody is doing that, you have to plan ahead,” Ellis said. “The only two people who think of planning ahead is my administrator because she has to book the flights and all those things, and her boss. And everybody else, we don’t worry about that.

“That’s probably who the two people were. I think that’s important to do your job, so in terms of arrogance, that’s got nothing to do with us, that’s planning and preparation for our staff. I think it’s pretty normal. I had no idea where we were headed and how we were going to get there. I didn’t even know how I was going to get here (media conference), they think of that so we don’t have to.”

England head coach Phil Neville was not impressed in the obvious breach of protocol. It is not common practice for the staff of one team to show up at another’s hotel.

“It’s not a concern, the only thing I would say is that it’s not something that I would want my Team Ops person doing,” Neville said. “It’s not something that England would do, we’re happy with our hotel. We were training and I hope they enjoyed the hotel. It’s not something that we’d do, send someone around to the other team’s hotel.”

The two teams are currently in relatively close proximity to each other in Lyon.

England is staying in a Marriott hotel, however. Perhaps a member of the U.S. staff collects Marriott rewards points?

“It’s their problem,” Neville said. “I’m sure Jill wouldn’t have been happy with that arrangement; I wouldn’t have been if that was my Team Ops person going around. I’m sure she will be dealing with their infrastructure within their own discipline, probably.”

Team hotels at the tournament are assigned by FIFA and are usually approved by the various teams.

“There’s no advantage and it has no bearing on the game,” Neville said. “I actually found out it quite funny. I just thought, ‘what are they doing?’ It’s not etiquette really is it? I just think that’s not something that I would allow from our organization.”

ENGLAND BELIEVE AFTER SHEBELIEVES

England held the United States to a 2-2 tie at the SheBelieves Cup in Nashville in March, giving them the title in the four-team round-robin event, also featuring Brazil and Japan.

The game gives England belief they could defeat the United States when it came to a major tournament, something they’ll get an opportunity to prove Tuesday.

“The March game was a really good game for both teams,” Neville said. “We played really well in the game. I think it gave us great confidence and belief, the way that we played, the style that we played, the fact we went behind, came back, then went in front and then had to really sustain real big plays from them towards the end.

“We counterattacked towards the end and thought we really could have nicked (stolen) the game. But I suppose the biggest thing to come out of March was the fact we won that tournament. That was the most important thing rather than that individual game. You go to tournaments to win.”

The England women have never won a major international tournament, while the men’s only win was at the 1966 World Cup they hosted — a longer drought than even the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Neville said at this level it is all about winning and England will be disappointed if they don’t get past the United States and go on to win the title.

“My players now want to win, so if we don’t get the right result we’ll be disappointed, we’ll feel the disappointment and we’ll see that as a failure,” Neville said. “That’s not me being negative, that’s just our expectations and our belief, and our confidence and our mindset is about winning. We went to SheBelieves wanting to win. We didn’t go to SheBelieves to get four points, score three goals and keep two clean sheets (shutouts), it’s about winning.”

Neville, 42, never played in a World Cup for England but did win his share of titles during his time as a player with Manchester United.

“Elite sport is about winning, nobody cares who gets the silver or bronze, it’s the gold medal that everybody wants and I’ve got to say that America have that ruthless streak of wanting to win,” he said. “You saw the last five minutes against France, the game management was fantastic. They took the ball into the corner and they knew what it took to win.

“That’s what I admire and that’s what my team have got now, so it’s about winning and March helped us with that because we were the ones that stood on that platform and we were the ones who held up the trophy.”

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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