England boss Phil Neville again hailed the “phenomenal” Lucy Bronze as the best player in the world after the right-back starred in the 3-0 World Cup quarter-final win over Norway.
Bronze set up Jill Scott’s opener and was also involved in the build-up to the Lionesses’ second, scored by Ellen White, before netting the third herself with a superb strike from just outside the box.
Neville had described the 27-year-old, who was nominated for the inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, as the world’s best player earlier this year during the victorious SheBelieves Cup campaign.
And following the win in Le Havre that set up a semi-final clash with either France or the United States, he said: “She is the best player in the world.
“She should win the Ballon d’Or, 100 per cent. I have no doubt about that.
“What you saw tonight was a player playing at the top of her game, and that is her level of performance. The bigger stage, the bigger the performance.
“Her quality for the first goal, the strike for the third. She is phenomenal and someone for me who doesn’t get the recognition worldwide that she deserves.
“For me, if you were saying about a Ballon d’Or winner this year, Lucy Bronze has got to win it. I’ve said that for six months. Just because she plays at right-back… she is the best. There is nobody like her.”
Neville also described England captain Steph Houghton as “irreplaceable” after her excellent display, which included clearing a Lisa-Marie Utland shot off the line shortly after Bronze’s 57th-minute goal.
Scott scored with just two minutes and six seconds on the clock – the earliest goal of the tournament so far and the fastest England have scored at any Women’s World Cup.
White then doubled the lead in the 40th minute, moving alongside US forward Alex Morgan and Australia’s Sam Kerr as the tournament’s joint top-scorer with five goals.
Nikita Parris had an 83rd-minute penalty saved by Ingrid Hjelmseth but that mattered little in the end as England progressed to the last four for a third successive major tournament.
Neville said: “I thought we played no different to how we did in the previous games, we were just more ruthless.
“I’ve got the best job ever. I work day in, day out with a group of players that are absolutely astonishing. Tonight I have to say it’s probably one my proudest moments I’ve had in football.
“What I said to them at the end, and I’m not ashamed to say it, was ‘are you ready to win a World Cup?’ Because we are in it to win it. I think we’re in good shape.
“We want to come home with that World Cup. I keep thinking to myself ‘stop saying it’, but we can’t hide away from the fact that something is happening. We can’t wait for next Tuesday (when England will play their semi-final, in Lyon).”
Hosts France and holders the United States meet in Paris on Friday night.
Neville added: “I think you have best team in the world and favourites for the World Cup (the US), and probably the second favourites in France. Both teams hold no fear for my players.
“My players want the biggest games, so do I, and this will be the biggest game in the World Cup.”
Norway boss Martin Sjogren said: “We tried at half-time to ignite the fire, the hope, and we knew that if we scored one goal it would be a match again, and then we created.
“But when we couldn’t score and then it became 3-0, it became hard.
“But I would like to state that we still saw our players fight until the end though it looked hopeless. That’s a plus for us.”
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