LIONESS Toni Duggan sees flashes of Pep Guardiola in Phil Neville’s philosophy.
The England striker knew women’s football was on the up when the tiki-taka trailblazer started studying her movement.
2 Toni Duggan sees flashes of Pep Guardiola in Phil NevilleCredit: Getty
2 Toni Duggan met Pep Guardiola during her time at Manchester CityCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
Barcelona star Duggan — who joined from Manchester City in July 2017 — said: “When Pep arrived at City he took time off to speak to us. He was a gentleman.
“I remember at one stage I was doing some extra running in the indoor dome and he actually just came over.
“He was just standing there watching me, and I thought, ‘Oh, bloody hell’.
“I was knackered. Do I stop? Shake his hand? Or carry on and pretend that I can’t see Pep Guardiola?
“So I went to stop and he was like, ‘No, no — continue’. I was just like, ‘oh my God’.
“He just stood there. I did about two shuttles, then he walked away. I just thought, ‘Wow, thank God for that’.
“I just kind of wanted to sit down with him and talk football but I felt I’d never get away from him.”
Duggan, 27, has turned her international career around since injury saw her struggle to make the 2015 World Cup.
But she is now on top of the world and feels Neville can take England to glory — playing the Guardiola way.
She said: “We play out from the back, like Barcelona have been doing for years, since they were babies. But that’s the way Phil wants us to play.
“He’s been out in Spain so he’s probably robbed a few ideas from Valencia for us.
“The girls are so confident now playing out from the back. Most of us do it for our clubs in the Women’s Super League, so why not play that style when we are all together?
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“It’s what we are best at. The girls are really brave and confident of getting on the ball — compared to maybe four or five years ago, where it wasn’t in our mindset to do that.”
Duggan is desperate to make her World Cup mark against Japan tomorrow after missing England’s first two group games with a thigh injury.
She said: “I’ve got a smile on my face this morning as I’m fit but it’s the most difficult thing in the world being injured.
“I’ve been glued to my bed, icing my leg and constantly getting treatment. I’ve tried to keep myself focused by watching other teams.
“My close friends Abbie McManus and Nikita Parris are playing their first World Cup so I have tried to get them ready and that’s where I’ve found my comfort.
“I hope I’ve had an input but now I’m ready to get on the pitch.”
Claire Bloomfield's World Cup diary
ENGLAND staff are bringing a few home comforts to the south of France with the team’s chef serving up a traditional roast dinner in Antibes.
The Lionesses’ chef travels to each destination one day before the squad to prepare an extensive menu. It is said he takes over the hotel’s kitchen quarters.
A video showing the emotional dugout scenes after Thailand smashed in a consolation goal in the 5-1 loss to Sweden has gone viral on social media.
But the mystery over the identity of the ‘lady in the white jacket’ who hugs head coach Nuengrutai Srathongvian has been solved.
She has been revealed as Nualphan Lamsam. The 53-year-old largely funds the national team and is Thailand’s general manager.
NORWAY – the 1995 winners – have turned to traditional methods to pass the time in France.
International and Chelsea captain Maren Mjelde rallied her troops in Reims to tackle the world’s smallest jigsaw at the team hotel before their win over South Korea on Monday night.
NIGERIA head coach Thomas Dennerby is an ex-policeman who was tasked with fighting drug barons in Sweden.
Although branded by his family as ‘too kind’ for that line of work, the Swede, 59, says his sensitive side has been invaluable as a coach.
And Dennerby, enjoying his third World Cup campaign having led Sweden to the tournament in 2007 and 2011, needed all his understanding and patience after his Nigeria team tasted defeat to host nation France.
TODAY’S BIG GAME
ITALY vs BRAZIL
THIS could prove to be the decisive game in Group C. Italy are arguably the tournament’s surprise package so far.
With Australia likely to beat Jamaica, Brazil coach Vadao knows his side will need to pick up points in Valenciennes to keep their World Cup hopes alive.
ONE TO WATCH
BRAZIL are sweating over legend Marta’s fitness. The skipper, 33, went off injured in the 3-2 loss to Australia and will be vital in what Brazil are billing a “life-or-death” clash.