Parris: We went toe to toe with US – why fear them?
Nikita Parris insists there is nothing to fear from the United States as she plots a path to England’s first football World Cup final since 1966.
The US have a well-earned reputation as the most bullish and selfassured team in women’s football, with Phil Neville, the England head coach, observing after the Shebelieves Cup in March that he hoped his side would one day emulate their “swagger”.
Since arriving in camp, Neville has ordered England to be, in Leah Williamson’s words, their own team of “bad-ass women”.
For now, that accolade rests with the US. There has been no let-up in their charge towards back-to-back World Cups since they opened their tournament account with that 13-0 demolition of Thailand, captain Megan Rapinoe underlining the team’s reputation by engaging in a personal feud with President Donald Trump, saying she would refuse an invitation to the White House should her team emerge victorious.
But Parris, emboldened by England lifting the Shebelieves Cup in March – when they held the US to a draw – is refusing to be intimidated ahead of the sides’ rematch in Lyon tonight.
“Why shouldn’t we think we can’t be badder than them when we went to the Shebelieves and we won it?” she said. “We went toe to toe with them. We beat America under Mark [Sampson]. Why shouldn’t we think we can beat them?
“Why do we have to come to this tournament semi-final and think, oh, it’s America?
“Nobody fears America. Nobody fears Germany. Nobody fears England. They know that on the day, no matter who you are, if you perform and get the best out of each and every player on the field of play, you’ll win the game. I don’t fear America and I don’t think my team-mates do.”
Although unnerved by missing two of her past three penalties, Parris is unsure if she will remain the side’s first-choice penalty-taker. “I guess I’ll find out tomorrow when I look at the set plays,” she said.
It is understood that, like Gareth Southgate’s side last summer, England’s players have been encouraged to perfect one specific spot-kick routine, but according to Parris there is “not really a designated penalty section of training. The girls just go out there and take penalties, or free-kicks, or shots. It’s not a designated part of the training”.
Asked what Neville’s preferred term, “bad-ass women”, meant, Parris said: “What I understand that to be is you don’t want to come to a World Cup, make an impact and be forgotten, not just reaching the top, but making their mark on the top.”
She is particularly inspired by her sister, the boxer Natasha Jonas, whose own football career – a university scholarship in the United States – was ended prematurely through an ACL injury.
“She’s never given up,” Parris said. “She’s always come back fighting. I’m proud to say my sister was the first female boxer in the Olympics. And that’s history. She’s made her mark.”
Confident mood: (from left to right) Millie Bright, Nikita Parris and Lucy Bronze