Steph Houghton and Millie Bright Doubtful for Norway Quarterfinal Clash

England's Stephanie Houghton.
Caroline Charruyer / OGM

Phil Neville could be without England center back duo Steph Houghton and Millie Bright for Thursday’s World Cup quarterfinal against Norway.

Neville described the pair as “major doubts” with Houghton still recovering from the challenge she received at the end of Sunday’s win against Cameroon, while Bright has a virus that Neville admits is spreading around the England camp with just more than 24 hours to go until the match.

“They are both major doubts,” said Neville. “Steph because of the tackle. We’re hoping she takes part in training today, that’s a key thing. Millie has a virus that’s going through the camp. She’s more of a doubt than Steph but we’ll give them every chance.”

It’s understood Lucy Bronze missed training yesterday with the same virus as Bright. Neville didn’t confirm if anyone else had been affected but said Bronze would be “fine.”

“It’s sickness, just a simple virus picked up in the last couple of days. Millie’s in her room recovering at this moment.”

With both first-choice center backs doubtful for the match, Neville took his opportunity to discuss how his rotation, which has enabled both Leah Williamson and Abbie McManus to get game time in recent months, may come to his aid should both miss the encounter.

McManus has been more of a regular than Williamson but the Arsenal defender has become more a regular in recent months and made her tournament debut in the final minutes against Cameroon on Sunday.

“You guys have had an obsession with my rotation for 18 months,” said Neville. “What I will say is the players we’ve played, for instance Leah versus Japan at SheBelieves, Abbie in two games at that tournament, their form over the past 18 months is for moments like this, that we can say ‘no problem.’

“We will bring people in who know the style and the system, it’s a seamless transition. We’ve planned for these moments. I said six months ago we don’t want to get to the quarterfinals of a World Cup and throw someone in who we haven’t tried or tested or doesn’t know our system.”

Neville added that he was “totally relaxed” about the situation no matter who starts in defense on Thursday night.

“When I got into management, I said from day one I will only worry about those who can get on the bus, the fit ones. I would put my life on Leah and Abbie to be the best two players on the pitch.”