The Talk of Lyon: 'Hotelgate' turns USA-England countdown into farce

In addition to producing some very thrilling soccer, 2019 Women's World Cup has generated a lot of serious discussion about opportunity and equality and diversity in sports, but it descended into farce on Sunday.

The U.S. women's national team has overcome a lot of foes in its time, but it has never had to face the British media before.

With England set to face the USA on Tuesday at the Groupama Stadium in the Lyon suburb of  Décines-Charpieu, the British media needed to find a story on Sunday, the only day they'd have pre-game access to both coaches, and thought they found one.

U.S. Soccer advance staff, checking out its hotel if the USA makes it to Sunday's final at the Groupama Stadium, went to the hotel, Fourvière Hôtel Lyon, located on the site of a Roman amphitheater. for a tour of the facilities. It happens to be the England hotel, and the Lionesses were at practice.

The Americans had alerted FA staff of their plan to visit, despite media problems to the contrary. As it was, U.S. coach Jill Ellis said her administrative staff was simply doing its job.

“I would assume everybody is doing that,” she said. “You have to plan ahead. The only ones who went were the team administrator and her boss. We don’t worry about that. That’s who the two were.”

But England coach Phil Neville did not agree, saying it was a breach of etiquette.

“The only thing I would say is it’s not something I’d want my team doing," he said. "It’s not something that England would do. We’re happy with our hotel and we were just training. So I hope they’re enjoying their hotel but it’s not something we’d do, send someone round to another team’s hotel."

Neville tried to argue Ellis would not have approved of the move.

“It’s their problem," he said. "I’m sure Jill won’t have been happy with that arrangement. I wouldn’t have been, if that was my team ops person going round and I’m sure she will be dealing with their own infrastructure with their own discipline."

For the Women's World Cup, FIFA sets up designated hotels in each venue for teams to use. In the case of Lyon, it designated hotels for the four semifinalists -- the USA, England, Netherlands and Sweden. If the USA wins its semifinal match, it will move to the England hotel for the final. If it loses to England, the USA will head down to Nice for the third-place game.

The story -- the USA already looking ahead to the final -- fed the narrative some members of the European press have played that the USA is arrogant. That started when backup defender Ali Krieger said the USA had the best team in the world -- and second best team in the world.

(L'Equipe went so far as to get North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley to break down the U.S. second team player by player and rate them. His assessment: The U.S. "B" team might make the World Cup quarterfinals but advance no further.)

"Arrogance has nothing to do with us,” said Ellis. “That’s planning and preparation for staff. I had no idea how we were even going to get to Lyon."

She again backed Krieger's comments.

“Ali’s played for a lot of different teams and on the 2015 team,” Ellis said. “It’s a comment about ourselves and how she feels because has played in two different teams. She has the right to say that."

8 comments about "The Talk of Lyon: 'Hotelgate' turns USA-England countdown into farce".
  1. R2 Dad, July 1, 2019 at 11:11 a.m.

    I think Ellis should have gotten her players to just work the phrase, "fanny pack" into every media discussion, just to watch the british talking heads explode. That would be pure gold. Because lots of Americans travel with fanny packs, right?

  2. stewart hayes, July 1, 2019 at 1:36 p.m.

    Coaches making up fantasy enemies to motivate their teams, in this case 'the arrogant Americans'.  If they need lies to play their best they're in trouble.  If they think the USWNT will be kowtowed they are doubly so.    

  3. Gary Miller, July 1, 2019 at 5:02 p.m.

    I hardly think an administrative visit to a hotel the team could potentially be staying at in a few days qualifies as "arrogant" but in my book a statement like:
     "I think the whole of the French people have got behind our story, our football and I do believe that we are now the team that the French public wants us to win the World Cup." - Phil Neville

    Certainly does. 

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, July 1, 2019 at 9:37 p.m.

    Excellent point. The British are well known for their dry sense of humor and sense of irony. Perhaps he was joking?

  5. R2 Dad replied, July 2, 2019 at 12:50 a.m.

    Neville not joking, because Brits believe Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit...

  6. Bob Ashpole, July 1, 2019 at 9:58 p.m.

    I followed the link to the French article. I couldn't see the article itself because it is behind a wall unless you subscribe, but I could see all the comments. Given that these comments were written before the USA-France match, many of them are good for a chuckle. Some of them were complementary. Like the article concludes, if Ali was wrong, she isn't off by much.

    By the way, I wouldn't want to be anywhere near the US WNT if someone were telling them who were the "B" team players. It would be like insulting a family of 23 sisters. Without a doubt they are one team, and 22 of the 23 have played in a match already. I wonder if any of the other teams have played every one of their field players.

  7. R2 Dad replied, July 2, 2019 at 12:55 a.m.

    Too right--bench depth is one of our strengths. England has one primary goal scorer--I think we have 4.

  8. R2 Dad, July 3, 2019 at 12:15 a.m.

    I didn't think it was possible, but Ellis schooled Neville today. PN was, as they say, too clever by half with his 4-4-1-1.

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