Record crowds, recurring mistakes and pressure for Phil: five talking points from England's defeat to Germany

Soccer Football - Women's International Friendly - England v Germany - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - November 9, 2019 England manager Phil Neville reacts Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

It was a landmark day for women’s football but the biggest match in Lionesses’ history ended in last-gasp disappointment as Klara Bühl struck a late winner for Germany in front of a record-breaking crowd at Wembley. 

They may have witnessed yet another unhappy England defeat to Germany, but seeing 77,768 fans flock to Wembley makes quite the statement – that women’s football is here to stay. 

Ella Jerman looked at the five biggest talking points from Saturday’s landmark occasion: 

Pressure piling for Phil 

It took him long enough, but Phil Neville finally admitted he takes ‘full responsibility’ for England’s poor run of form after Klara Bühl's late winner crushed Lionesses’ hearts on a record-breaking day at Wembley. 

“One in seven is totally unacceptable,” said the England boss post-match, referring to the Lionesses’ dismal run which began with World Cup semi-final defeat to the USA.

His words couldn’t not have been clearer before the start of the game: “It’s not about enjoying the occasion. It’s about the performance” – but he is reluctant to blame his players for the defeat. 

“Start with me and finish with me, ultimately because the team always reflects the manager and at this moment in time the results aren’t good enough. Which means I’m not good enough,” he said.

Looking at the Germany game in isolation, slipping to a narrow 2-1 defeat in the last minute to the world’s number two side is by no means a failure, but it’s the inability to beat the likes of Belgium, and only just about overcoming Portugal, that remains the problem. 

Five defeats from seven since the World Cup is a big worry. If England fail to beat world no.36 ranked side Czech Republic on Tuesday, most will be asking whether Neville is really the right man for the job.

Never underestimate the Germans 

They may have made history by drawing in their largest-ever home crowd, but the Lionesses will have to wait to break the curse of never having beaten Germany on home soil.

The Lionesses have a long history of struggle in this fixture. It took 21 attempts for England to record a first win against the Germans, in the third-place play-off at the 2015 World Cup in Canada – their only victory to date over their European neighbours. 

Amidst all the talk of the occasion it seems the strength of the world’s number two side was somewhat forgotten, Germany showing exactly what they are capable of with a rapid start which led to Alexandra Popp’s ninth minute opener, before Bühl finished it off with a sweet last-minute finish.

It wasn’t quite the same thrashing, but the match had a sense of déjà vu about it. The last time the Lionesses played in front of a record crowd at Wembley – 45,619 in 2014 – they lost to Germany 3-0. 

Parris’ penalty woes continue 

First, she missed against Argentina in the World Cup group stage, then against Norway in the quarter-final and now against Germany in front of the biggest stage of all – penalties just aren’t working out for Nikita Parris. 

In fact, penalties just aren’t working out for England, Parris’ costly spot-kick miss being the fourth in succession after Steph Houghton’s late penalty against the USA was also stopped in July’s semi-final. 

For Parris, it’s the third time she has failed to score from the spot in six occasions, yet both her and Neville still believe she’s the right player for the job. 

“I still want to take more penalties for England,” said the winger. 

“How can I improve? By taking more penalties, but I do need to step back and take a holistic look. Internationally I’ve had six penalties and only scored three and I know that’s not good enough.”

White’s still the answer 

While debating who should be taking England’s penalties, perhaps we’re missing the most obvious solution – Ellen White. 

The Lionesses’ World Cup hero came to their rescue once again on her first start for England since scoring six goals in France this summer, levelling the scores with a trademark poacher’s finish on the brink of half-time. 

If England ever looked like they were going to score on Saturday, it would have been through White. 

She now has 35 goals in 89 appearances for England. Kelly Smith, the Lionesses’ record goalscorer, has 46 in 177. 

White only needs 12 more goals to overtake Smith’s record. Seeing as scored seven in seven, you’d be silly for doubting her.

That said, White has withdrawn from tomorrow's match against Czech Republic due to fitness concerns after only just recovering from a knee injury. Captain Houghton will also be rested, while Alex Greenwood and Jodie Taylor have been ruled out with ankle and back injuries respectively.

Women’s football will never be the same again 

The Lionesses may have lost, but it wasn’t all woe from Wembley.

Saturday’s friendly was a watershed moment for women’s football in England, with 77,768 fans flocking from all ends of the country to see the Lionesses in action. 

It was hardly a quiet Saturday of football either, with six Premier League games – two of which were in London – also taking place. 

The attendance number may have ended up just shy of the overall record of 80,203 for a women’s football match in England, set at the Olympic gold medal match between USA and Japan in 2012, but there’s no doubting the women’s game is on the rise like it never has been before.