England rout Kazakhstan with Nikita Parris to the fore in World Cup qualifier
If this was Mo Marley’s last match as England’s interim coach she left with a smile on her face and a 100% record after another comfortable victory in World Cup qualifying.
Marley was characteristically modest afterwards, almost reluctant to admit her hat is in the ring to replace Mark Sampson as full-time coach. She will have a debrief with the Football Association that will also pass as an interview next week. Her work with the squad over the past three matches, and her public attitude which has won her plaudits, will hardly do her any harm.
“I gave the players a couple of reflections after the match, I thanked them for embracing the way I’ve worked and applauded them because we’ve done a job‚” Marley said. “I enjoy it. It’s a privilege to be associated with England teams, of whatever age group.
“There’ll be a debrief, we’ll reflect and put a plan together for moving forward. The discussion will include where I fit into that. But the main thing is I want English women to win the World Cup as much as the English public do.”
Marley admitted she had to deliver a stern half-time team talk before the Lionesses ultimately overcame a limited Kazakh side. With three players making their first start, and a fluid 4-3-3 formation, England struggled to make their dominance count before the break.
With an opposition who at their most adventurous played five at the back (but more often six or more), England’s football needed to be fast and precise. Throughout the match it was Nikita Parris to whom they looked to provide those qualities.
The Manchester City winger, earning her 17th cap, was a constant outlet, with pace, trickery and close control. She scored twice, earned a penalty and could have had more goals but, at 23, was earning only her 18th cap. “I’ve always known Nikki’s potential,” Marley said. “She’s improving year on year, but most importantly is playing regularly and playing well for her club.”
Parris was one of six Manchester City players to start the match and four were involved in the opening goal in the 15th minute, Parris drew the Kazakh defence before passing to Keira Walsh, the midfielder making her England debut. She whipped the ball in and Jill Scott stepped over it, creating space for Melissa Lawley. England’s other winger took a touch, shimmied , composed herself and chipped the ball home.
England did not double their lead until the 63rd minute thanks to Fran Kirby, who converted a penalty with her first touch of the ball.
Five minutes later Parris deservedly got on the scoresheet with the best goal of the match, timing her run for Scott’s throughball to perfection before lashing her shot into the roof of the net. The winger doubled her tally in the 76th minute and the substitute Izzy Christiansen completed the scoring. England go into their winter break in good form and with new options on the field. The main question remains who will be in charge.
England’s Fran Kirby, centre, celebrates after scoring her side’s second from the penalty spot during the World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images