USWNT addresses 'arrogant' claims ahead of World Cup semis
U.S. women's national team forward Christen Press and manager Jill Ellis responded to questions about whether the Americans have displayed an arrogant attitude during their run to the semifinals of the Women's World Cup in France.
Monday's media availability ahead of Tuesday's match against England in Lyon continued what has been a spirited dialogue between both sides, starting with England manager Phil Neville taking issue with U.S. team representatives visiting the Lionesses' hotel and continuing with the Americans being asked to respond to a British tabloid posing the question of whether members of the USWNT were "too arrogant."
"I don't think our team is arrogant at all. I think our team is confident," Press told reporters ahead of Tuesday's last-four clash against England in Lyon. "We're respectful of our opponents, and the way that we respect them is by preparing for each game as if the opponent that we're going to play is the best in the world.
"I think that -- on top of the level of intensity and preparation and effort that goes into each game -- is the best way to respect who you are playing," she added. "And that confidence is beautiful, and that's a big part of the U.S. women's national team's legacy, and it's actually an important part that we really hope that our performances are helping and spreading to others in the world, and the next generations looks and sees that and feels that and carries that on."
The U.S. was heavily criticized for its late celebrations in a historic, 13-0 victory of Thailand in their opening group-stage match, causing members of the team and former players to come out in defense of the squad's behavior. Their next four matches were tougher tests -- including the 2-1 win against host France to reach the semis -- with the tournament favorites adopting a more defensive posture at times.
Standing in the Americans' way of the final is an upstart England squad coached by Neville, the former Manchester United defender who took issue Sunday with the lengths to which Ellis' side is preparing for the match.
A pair of U.S. staffers visited the Fourviere Hotel, which is close to the old town, while England were out at a practice Sunday. The winners of Tuesday's semifinal get to stay in the hotel while they prepare for the July 7 final, which is also being played in Lyon. Ellis said it was a sign of good preparation rather than arrogance, but Neville suggested it could be a disciplinary matter for the staff dispatched to the hotel -- and bad etiquette.
"I think that's important to do your job," Ellis said. "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."
However, Neville disagreed.
"We were training. I hope they enjoyed the hotel, but it's not something we would do -- sending someone round to another team's hotel," Neville said. "But it's their problem. I am sure that Jill probably wouldn't have been happy with that arrangement. I wouldn't have been if that was my team ops person going round. I am sure they will be dealing with their own infrastructure within their own discipline problem."
Based on information provided by FIFA to the media, the Americans are staying at the less luxurious Residence Lyon Metropole, which is in the north of Lyon. "I just thought, 'What are they doing?'" Neville said of the Americans. "It's not etiquette, really. It's not something I would allow from our organization."
Neville was in a more forgiving mood when discussing U.S. star Megan Rapinoe, whose four goals in the past two rounds have carried the Americans through the knockout stage.
"I remember in my first SheBelieves [Cup match against the U.S. last year], when there was a ball bouncing on the touchline and I went to catch it and her studs came right through my Apple watch. She's not paid me back for that," Neville joked. "What I liked about that was that she didn't say sorry, she just got on with it.
"She's a winner. I like the individuality in her, both on and off the field, and I think she's a world-class footballer."
The U.S., which has never failed to reach the semifinals of the World Cup, is vying to become the first repeat champion since Germany in 2003 and 2007. England makes it second straight appearance in the semis, losing to Japan in 2015 before finishing third overall.
"America has got that ruthless streak of wanting to win," Neville said. "You saw the last five minutes of the [quarterfinal] game against France. The game management was fantastic. They took the ball into the corner, they knew what it took to win and they celebrated like winners. That's what I admire, and that's what my team has now. It's about winning."
Tuesday's winner will go on to the championship match, facing the winner of the other semifinal Wednesday between Sweden and the Netherlands.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.