Par­ris: We went toe to toe with US – why fear them?

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - World Cup 2019 -

in Lyon

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

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