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2019 Fifa Women's World Cup: Toni Duggan says England's style reminds her of Barcelona

The England forward, who plays her club football at Barcelona, said the team's philosophy of building play from the back was reminiscent of the style ingrained at all levels at the Catalan club

Toni Duggan says England are 'not that far behind' Barcelona in terms of being able to play the ball out from defence. Reuters
Toni Duggan says England are 'not that far behind' Barcelona in terms of being able to play the ball out from defence. Reuters

Toni Duggan has likened England's style of play to Barcelona, saying Phil Neville's side are "not far behind" the Spanish champions.

The Lionesses face Japan in their final Group E game on Wednesday having already secured their place in the last 16 of the 2019 Fifa Women's World Cup with a 2-1 win over Scotland followed by a 1-0 victory over Argentina.

Duggan, who plays her club football at Barcelona having joined from Manchester City in 2017, said the team's philosophy of building play from defence to attack was reminiscent of the style ingrained at all levels at the Catalan club.

"We're playing out from the back and Barcelona have been doing it for many, many years," said the England forward.

"They've been doing it since they were babies, so it's so natural for them, and we're not far behind."

Duggan, 27, who boasts 22 goals in 72 England appearances, said that Neville had instilled a confidence in the squad that they are a match for anyone.

"I think that's the way [playing the ball out from the back] Phil wants us to play. Obviously he's been over in Spain as well and probably robbed a few ideas from Valencia [where he was on the coaching staff in 2015/16] and brought them to us," Duggan added.

"The girls are so confident now in playing out from the back. They are really brave and confident getting on the ball compared to maybe four or five years ago, where it wasn't in our mindset to do that."

Under Mark Sampson, Neville's predecessor, England achieved their best performance at a Women's World Cup, finishing third in 2015 as well as reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2017.

"Each manager is going to bring in their own philosophy," Duggan said when asked to compare the approaches of Sampson and Neville.

"We were super successful under Mark Sampson because probably teams didn't expect us to play the way we played. We were so direct and we played to certain people's strengths on the team.

"Then Phil's come in with his own philosophy and that's going to suit different individuals. That's football, that's natural. But it's not to say we are going to be more or less successful under Phil than we were under Mark."

The common thread through both Barcelona and Manchester City and the mantra of keeping hold of the ball is, of course, Pep Guardiola. The Catalan was schooled in the ways of Dutch master Johan Cruyff as a player at Camp Nou and applied the same principles when he took over as manager in 2009, guiding the club to an historic treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League in his first season in charge.

City created history under Guardiola's guidance last term, securing a domestic clean sweep of Premier League, League Cup and FA Cup titles.

Duggan spoke of her admiration for the 48 year old.

"I'm interested in him a lot," she said. "When I worked with him at City, whenever I met him, he was a lovely person. I just kind of wanted to sit down with him and talk football but I thought I'd never get away from him.

"He was so nice, so complimentary of the women's team, and the first day that he was there and he was announced to all the fans, he took his time out to speak with us - he was really a gentleman."

She added: "I'm very fortunate to have worked at two unbelievable clubs, Manchester City and Barcelona, and I feel like I've really changed the way I look at football from being around and in those environments, so I feel really privileged."

Updated: June 19, 2019 08:34 AM

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