PHIL NEVILLE has praised the fans who flocked to the Riverside Stadium to watch his England side lose to Brazil, and claimed the atmosphere generated was the best he had ever encountered at a women’s football game.

A crowd of 29,238 packed into Middlesbrough’s home ground, making the attendance the biggest recorded for an England Women’s home game outside Wembley.

They were unable to celebrate a home win after Debinha’s second-half double fired Brazil into what proved an unassailable lead.

Beth England’s late header briefly threatened an England comeback, and while his side was unable to fashion an equaliser, Neville was delighted with the passion and footballing fervour of the North-East support.

The Lionesses boss said: “In terms of the atmosphere, that’s the best atmosphere I’ve ever witnessed at a women’s game. Ever. It felt like a proper atmosphere. It didn’t feel like a carnival, it felt like a proper football atmosphere.

“There was a buzz in the air from the warm-up and you could feel the atmosphere in the air. I think that really inspired our players, and that’s the type of atmosphere we want to play in. I’m sure they’ve gone home convinced they’ve seen a really good football team play unbelievably well, but just not got their just rewards. They’ve seen a good game of football.

“The five games without a victory is disappointing, and is something we want to stop straight away on Tuesday night. We want to stop this momentum now that we’ve got where we’ve not won for five games. But in terms of the performance, I’m not concerned about what I’ve seen today. It actually gives me great hope that this set of players is still going in the right direction.

“The momentum we build from the World Cup is still there. You could see from the fans and from the atmosphere that this is here to stay. It wasn’t a boring 0-0, it wasn’t long ball football, it wasn’t kick and rush. It was top-class football played by one team in particular, and by Brazil as well, and I think they’ve probably gone away thinking that was a really enjoyable game.”

Nevertheless, having watched his side dominate the first half without opening the scoring, Neville was frustrated at the way Brazil were able to profit from two pieces of slack defending to settle things in the second half.

He said: “It was that ten-minute period after half-time that cost us. We thought we should have been three up at half-time because we dominated the first half, but we had that period in the second half where they hit us with two sucker-punches.

“We dominated the game after that for the rest of the game. That’s probably the way it’s falling for us at this moment in time. There were two half-crosses into the box, and we’ve not cleared them or stayed with runners. We’re getting punished for every little mistake we’re making at this moment in time. We’ve just got to accept it’s one of those periods.

“When we came home from Norway and Belgium, I thought the performance levels were totally unacceptable. The players knew that. But all week, and particularly in the game, the performance levels were just what I wanted. The enjoyment in which they wanted to play football meant

"I thought it was really unfair that they (Brazil) got anything from the game, but we’ve just got to take it because that’s football. Sometimes, you don’t get your just rewards. We didn’t, and the players have now got to respond.”