England women beat France 4-1 in Neville's coaching debut

England's Toni Duggan, left, celebrates her goal against France during the first half of a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match Thursday, March 1, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

By CRAIG MERZ, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Phil Neville answered critics with a win in his first match as England’s women’s coach.
England routed France 4-1 on Thursday in the opener of the SheBelieves Cup with Fran Kirby setting up the first goal for Toni Duggan and then slotting in the fourth herself.
“We’re in a bit of a transition, with a new manager coming in and trying new things,” Kirby said. “I think we can’t get ahead of ourselves.”
Jill Scott and Jodie Taylor also scored for England, which reached the semifinals of the World Cup and European Championship in recent years.
“It was a really pleasing performance, and I think we all enjoyed it,” Neville said.
While the 41-year-old Neville is a coaching novice, he has vast experience as a player.
He made 59 appearances for England from 1996-2007 and won six Premier League titles with Manchester United. He was hired by the Football Association in January, 1½ years ahead of the Women’s World Cup, in a move criticized because Neville had only previously been involved in the men’s game.
Since completing his playing career at Everton in 2013, he had worked as a commentator and as first-team coach at Manchester United and as an assistant at Valencia.
“It’s not about me. I know my qualities,” said Neville, who played alongside brother Gary at United and England. “I’ve said that from Day 1. I knew what I wanted from these players, and the players did it today. Full credit to the team.”
Neville replaced Mark Sampson, who was fired over inappropriate behavior involving his relationship with players in a previous job. Sampson was later found to have directed racially offensive remarks at two England players.
“It’s been a difficult year,” Duggan said. “No one is going to hide from that. In the light of the position we’re in, (it’s a) great win for Phil in his debut game. What better way to get off to a good start?”
Goals from Duggan, Scott and Taylor gave England a 3-0 lead at the break. Kirby strengthened the lead a minute into the second half. Gaetene Thiney scored in the 77th for sixth-ranked France.
France, which will host the Women’s World Cup next year, is also getting used to life under a new coach. Corinne Diacre, a defender in the France team from 1993-2005, was hired in August.
The SheBelieves Cup also includes the top-ranked United States and No. 2 Germany.
___
This version clarifies that Mark Sampson was fired as England coach for inappropriate behavior with players rather than racism and sex discrimination.