Toni Duggan admits she’ll be giving Phil Neville and his England staff the “strengths of weaknesses” of her Barcelona teammates as England prepares to face Spain in Swindon on Tuesday night.
There are nine of Duggan’s current club teammates in Jorge Vilda’s squad and every detail could be crucial as the Lionesses look to bounce back from Friday night’s defeat at home to Canada at Duggan’s former club stadium in Manchester.
It’s almost two years since England, then under the guidance of Mark Sampson, faced Spain on a torrential evening in the Netherlands at Euro 2017, goals from Fran Kirby and Jodie Taylor practically sealing progress from their group.
Two years on and preparing for a game which Neville says was arranged to help preparations for their upcoming World Cup encounter against Japan, Duggan is expecting a familiar test.
“A typical Spanish team,” she said regarding her expectations. “Wonderful in possession. Very, very good at attacking. I think we saw that in the last game at the Euros but we won the game and we’ll win it again if possible.
“I think it’s going to be a very good game this time around because we’re playing a different style now. Hopefully we can impose that style and have a bit more possession, I think it’s going to be a great game.”
Indeed, England had just 22 percent of the ball when the sides met in Breda two years ago but with Neville favoring a more attacking style to that under Sampson, it could be a more end-to-end encounter on Tuesday than England’s “backs to the wall’ job in the Netherlands.
Duggan admits England know there will be times where they find themselves out of possession against Spain but would prefer to win than have the ball more than her Barcelona team mates.
“There’ll be times where we don’t have the ball, that’s football,” she said. “But we’re very disciplined and we’ve built our foundations on defending. It’s something we’re good at, but we’ve come a long way from the first camp with Phil in terms of how we attack and how we keep the ball under pressure.”
Duggan added, “I’m always laughing with my Spanish team mates that I’ll take 30 percent possession and two goals; a win is a win. They laugh and say ‘we had the ball.’ I’ve been bigging this game up like it’s a World Cup final. They’ve been keeping it low-key but I’m really looking forward to it.”
The 27-year-old, who captained her country for the first time at the end of last year, has become adept at possession football having now spent the past two seasons at Barcelona, but Duggan believes it’s not something that’s now solely unique to Spain.
“If you look at the girls on our team, the Chelsea girls, the Manchester City girls, they play a possession based game and it’s only right we do that as a national team as well. Right the way through the teams, that’s the style they’re looking for going forward. The junior teams all play possession-based; maybe times are changing for English football.
“But I think that (our ability to mix it up) is why we’ve been so successful. It’s in our nature to have that direct strength, typical English teams have that threat, that strength, but now we’re a lot more tactical. We’ve got a bit of everything now.”