England suffer controversial calls in draw with Australia

England head coach Phil Neville says he is concerned the standard of refereeing at next year’s Women’s World Cup could negatively impact the game’s growth. Neville’s side were on the wrong end of some contentious decisions in a 1-1 draw against Australia on Tuesday.The Lionesses were denied two penalties and had a goal wrongly disallowed before Australia equalised late on.”Maybe the standard of refereeing is my biggest concern going into the World Cup,” Neville told BBC Sport.Asked if he would prefer to see male referees in the women’s game, Neville replied: “No, I want to see female referees because it’s the right thing to do. “For the women’s game to get better we need to be having conversations like this and be brave enough to come out and say this needs to improve. I’m going away from this game, and so are my players and my staff, and there’s a sickly feeling in our bellies,” he said following Tuesday’s match. “The fans have been let down by two, three, maybe four of the poorest decisions I’ve ever seen. It needs to improve. I’m sure it will because there’s more money, better training etc. But you’ve got to accept that if you do wrong you can be criticised – and tonight that referee deserves the criticism.” Unlike this year’s men’s World Cup in Russia, there will be no VAR (video assistant referee) system at the Women’s World Cup in 2019. Neville added: “It’s important women’s football gets VAR, but it’s not the most important thing.”I don’t think the referees we’ve had tonight are up to the standard of international football, or if they are and if that is the level then we’ve got a major problem.”‘Referee’s decision for second penalty was astounding’England, who are ranked third in the world, reached next summer’s World Cup in France by topping their qualification group and are aiming to surpass their third-place finish in 2015.Facing an Australian side ranked sixth but without key players, Neville’s team dominated the friendly at Craven Cottage without being able to add to Fran Kirby’s 21st-minute opener.Lucy Staniforth’s sweeping finish was ruled out for being offside at the end of the first half before a clumsy tackle on Beth Mead in stoppage-time was deemed fair by referee Florence Guillemin.The French official also ruled Nikita Parris was not fouled when she was clipped in the Australia box, moments before the visitors scored a late equaliser through Clare Polkinghorne.”Beth Mead’s not dived for the first decision – there’s clear contact,” Neville said.”The second penalty was the biggest concern because she was nearer to the penalty incident than the linesman, and she referred to the linesman for help, which for me was astounding. “I feel disappointed for my players because they could be bouncing into the next camp and they’re going away with disappointment. The work they’ve put in – they deserve better.”Neville bemoans lack of killer instinctNeville took over as England manager in January, replacing Mark Sampson who was sacked by the Football Association in September 2017 after evidence of “inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour” in a previous role.Former Manchester United and England defender Neville has won six, drawn three and lost one of his 10 matches in charge, including four World Cup qualifying victories.Their build-up to next year’s finals continued with a 1-0 win against Brazil on Saturday and the draw against Australia – both matches which Neville feels his team should have won by convincing margins.”We weren’t ruthless enough,” he said.”These last two games have been frustrating – the players who have worked so hard have not got their just rewards by beating Brazil and Australia 3-0 or 4-0.”That is not being disrespectful to both countries, who are really good teams and will do well in the World Cup. That is what I saw on the balance of both games.”I take responsibility for the chances because every single day I go on about freedom of expression, passing the ball, dribbling and one-on-ones. Maybe it is time to go back to ‘just leather the ball into the back of the net’.”

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