England and the United States are embroiled in an extraordinary spying saga on the eve of their crunch Women’s World Cup semi-final football match tomorrow.
The war of words erupted after the US team sent two members of staff yesterday to scout the hotel in Lyon where England are staying as a place to stay before the final.
Lionesses boss Phil Neville was incensed and claimed the US had breached etiquette, but American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher rejected his claims today.
It comes as security staff at England’s training base in France had to remove one onlooker who appeared to be spying on their training session this morning.
Lionesses boss Phil Neville (left, pictured yesterday) claimed the US had breached etiquette, but American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher (right, pictured today) rejected his claims
The US delegation sent two members of staff yesterday to scout the five-star Fourviere Hotel in Lyon, where England are staying, as a place to stay before the final
The US insisted they were perfectly entitled to look around the opposition’s hotel, the five-star Fourviere Hotel in Lyon, while the team were occupying it.
Neville was indignant and suggested US coach Jill Ellis should investigate, given that the Americans visited incognito while England were out at training.
But Naeher said in a press conference today: ‘I just heard about that five minutes ago before coming in here. That has nothing to do with the game.
‘Our managers and operations have scouted out every hotel we’ve ever stayed in or every potential hotel we stay in, to make sure we’ve got plan A, plan B, plan C.
‘And that’s nothing to do with the game. It’s just our operations checking all the boxes and preparing for whatever path we take.’
Security staff at England’s training base in France had to remove one onlooker who appeared to be spying on their training session this morning
Security staff were sent to investigate and they came across an individual watching the session at their Terrain d’Honneur Lyon base from the bushes
Today, Neville’s squad were going through their training routine as normal when staff noticed something unusual in the hillside overlooking their practice pitches.
Security staff were sent to investigate and they came across an individual watching the session at their Terrain d’Honneur Lyon base from the bushes.
In footage posted on Twitter by ITV’s Steve Scott, two members of Neville’s staff can be looking up at the hill.
It then cuts to an individual wearing white trousers and a blue coat stood among the greenery that overlooks the pitches.
A security official rushes off towards the area in which the person is standing in but can’t appear to reach them because of a fence.
The England Women’s team are currently staying at the Fourviere Hotel in the centre of Lyon
England boss Phil Neville suggested USA coach Jill Ellis should launch her own investigation
Neville’s side take on the three-time world champions in Lyon at 8pm UK time tomorrow after the US ended the hopes of hosts France with a 2-1 win.
The Lionesses booked themselves in for a short stay at the Fourviere Hotel in heart of Lyon ahead of their semi-final with the US tomorrow evening.
US ‘scared’ of England in hunt for World Cup
Izzy Christiansen believes the United States are ‘scared’ of England’s challenge at the women’s World Cup.
The two sides meet in the semi-finals in Lyon on Tuesday with England seeking to upset the current champions and three-times World Cup winners.
England have played an exciting brand of football in France and won all five games, including successive 3-0 wins over Cameroon and Norway at the knockout stage.
‘I think they (US) are scared,’ said Lyon midfielder Christiansen, who missed the tournament after breaking her right leg and damaging ankle ligaments while on international duty at the SheBelieves Cup in March.
‘They’ve got so much history as being the best team, they are winners.
‘But I think England’s belief is more self-built. We’ve been through years of winning and losing and now we are in a position where our self-belief is where theirs is.
‘That’s why I think they are fearing England. It’s like having someone breathing down your neck in a marathon race.
‘You feel the hot air behind you, and I think that’s exactly how the US are feeling now.’
The US also have a 100 per cent record in France and scored 18 goals, including a 13-0 thrashing of Thailand, at the group stage.
But the knockout games have proved far tighter affairs with narrow 2-1 wins over Spain and France, with Megan Rapinoe scoring all four American goals.
The hotel, which was built in 1854, is located 15 miles away from the Lyon Olympic Stadium where the last-four encounter will be played with it being deemed the perfect place to set up camp.
While the England squad continue to get comfortable in their latest surroundings, it was revealed last night that the two American officials, including the operations manager, were given a tour of the hotel.
Neville said yesterday that it was breach of ‘etiquette’ and that he would expect his opposite number Jill Ellis to instigate an investigation.
‘The only thing I would say is that it’s not something I would want my team ops person to do,’ said Neville, who declared he had no injury worries ahead of the semi-final.
‘I’m happy with my team hotel and I hope they are enjoying their hotel. It’s not something we would have done, sending someone around to (the opponents) hotel and I’m sure they will be dealing with it.
‘It doesn’t give them an unfair advantage. It has no bearing on the game. I thought it was quite funny. I was thinking ‘What are they are doing’. But it’s not etiquette is it? It’s not something my team would be doing.’
At her press conference prior to Neville’s, Ellis was asked if she could explain why staff had gone to the hotel, and whether looking at it as a place the team could potentially stay if they reached the final was a sign of arrogance.
Ellis said: ‘I would assume everybody is doing that, you have to plan ahead.
‘The only two people that think of planning ahead on my team is my administrator, because she has to book all the flights and everything and do all that stuff, and her boss, and everybody else, we don’t worry about that. So that’s probably who the two people were.
‘I think that’s important, to do your job. So in terms of arrogance, I think that’s got nothing to do with us. That’s planning and preparation for our staff. So I think that’s pretty normal.
‘I had no idea where we were headed and where we were going, I didn’t even know how we were going to get here yesterday. They think of that so we don’t have to.’
England v USA in the Women’s World Cup 2019 semi-final is on BBC One tomorrow night, kick-off at 8pm
What do we know about the US team taking on England tomorrow?
England will go head to head with holders the United States for a place in the Women’s World Cup final. Phil Neville’s side take on the three-time world champions in Lyon on Tuesday after the US ended the hopes of hosts France with a 2-1 win. Here is a closer look at the team standing between the Lionesses and a place in their first ever major final.
Jill Ellis has been in charge of the US since 2014, leading them to victory in the 2015 World Cup in Canada. Born in Portsmouth, the 52-year-old headed across the Atlantic as a teenager and has a long-standing association with the US set-up. She has also served as interim coach and assistant coach and led the under-21 and under-20 teams. But she came in for fierce criticism ahead of the tournament from former US goalkeeper Hope Solo, who told the BBC she is “not the leader I wish her to be” and “cracks under the pressure quite a bit”.
Striker Alex Morgan is the team’s star name, with multiple magazine appearances, an acting credit in the film Alex & Me and an appearance on the cover of the US edition of the video game FIFA 16 to go with the century of international goals. She lived up to her billing with five goals as the US opened their World Cup campaign with a 13-0 thumping of Thailand but has not found the net since. Instead Megan Rapinoe has stolen the spotlight, not just with her back-to-back braces which have taken the holders through the knockout stages, but for her row with Donald Trump. Rapinoe provoked presidential indignation after pronouncing “I’m not going to the f***ing White House” when asked ahead of the tournament if she would visit were her team to win the World Cup. Rapinoe is gay and has previously accused Trump of being “sexist” and “misogynistic” and she refuses to sing the national anthem before matches. Trump had his say on Twitter ahead of the France match, accusing her of disrespect, but Rapinoe’s clinical performance at the Parc des Princes suggested she is loving the limelight.
The US have scored 22 goals in their five games en route to the last four, but the record thrashing of Thailand accounted for more than half of those. They have looked vulnerable both in their 2-1 last-16 win over Spain, when they gifted Jennifer Hermoso a goal with an awful defensive mix-up and needed a pair of Rapinoe penalties to progress, and against France, who made them sweat with their late fightback. England will be rightly confident of creating chances against a defence whose weaknesses seldom prove costly because of the team’s attacking power. On the flip side, of course, the likes of Morgan and Rapinoe will have noted with pleasure England’s tendency to switch off at the back a times.
The two teams last met in the World Cup in 2007 when the US cruised to a 3-0 quarter-final win in China. They are rather more closely matched now, though, as illustrated by the 2-2 draw they played out in their last meeting, at the SheBelieves Cup in March. England’s goals came from Steph Houghton and Nikita Parris as they came from a goal down to lead 2-1. And it was the Lionesses who ended up winning the four-team invitational tournament.