England boss Phil Neville says it is “a given now” that Nikita Parris is in the world-class bracket.
Making her Women’s World Cup debut as the Lionesses beat Scotland 2-1 in Nice on Sunday, Parris marked the occasion with a goal, confidently converting a 14th-minute penalty, and ended up with the player of the match award.
The 25-year-old Liverpudlian forward has netted 13 times in 35 England appearances, became the Women’s Super League all-time top scorer last season, and in May left Manchester City to join six-time Champions League winners Lyon.
“She’s world class, that’s a given now,” Neville said of Parris, the FWA Women’s Footballer of the Year.
“She has got to keep scoring goals, she has got to keep improving.
“I have to say, at the start of the World Cup build-up, coming back from signing for Lyon, it was really difficult for her.
“The girl coming from Toxteth, going over to France, the stress of signing for a new club. I thought it affected her probably for the first five or six days of the camp, and that’s why we played her in both games (friendlies against Denmark on May 25 and New Zealand on June 1), to get some rhythm.
“But this week she’s turned up and ramped up the volume, and I thought (against Scotland) she looked sharp.
Raheem Sterling & Nikita Parris – the 2019 Football Writers’ Association Footballers of the Year 🏆
— The FWA (@theofficialfwa) May 9, 2019
“Her and (Lyon full-back) Lucy Bronze down the right-hand side are going to be a real weapon for us.”
Neville has also praised Jill Scott following Sunday’s Group D clash at the Allianz Riviera.
Like fellow England midfielder Karen Carney, Scott, who played the full duration of the contest, is at her fourth World Cup.
And Neville said of the 32-year-old City player: “She was sensational. She has been for the last three games.
Great squad effort to get 3 points on the board in our first game! Been so nice having my fave humans here ❤️ Thanks to everyone at home for their support …. We go again 🏴 #worldcup pic.twitter.com/5BBXBng7Y4
— Jill Scott (@JillScottJS8) June 10, 2019
“She’s irreplaceable. Her size, her quality, her energy on the pitch.
“She can play until she’s 40. Her and Lucy Bronze are the quickest on the bleep test, quickest on the fitness test, never misses a training session. If you ask her to miss one, she’s goes absolutely mad at you.
“She’s built like a marathon runner and that’s why she’s so fit. And 32 I think now is a young age for a midfield player. Yes, there will be times when we have to rest her, but her energy levels are frightening.
“She’s a throwback to when players just go down injured and get up without moaning. She wins every tackle, wins every header, she slides, and she has real quality. She’s infectious and she’s a coach for me on the pitch, she really is.
“She knows how to play the game and that’s why she has got another probably two or three tournaments left with me.”
Ellen White added to Parris’ goal in the 40th minute, before Claire Emslie pulled one back in the 79th as Scotland capitalised on England skipper Steph Houghton giving the ball away.
Asked about England playing out from the back, Neville said: “There’s only one way we are going to play, and I think it is the only way we want our teams to play.
“We have to develop this system of play that is the right way to play football. We are going to make mistakes. Yes, we gave a ball away for the goal.
“But they were trying to do the right thing. We were trying to play the passes into midfield and I cannot criticise them for that.”
According to the BBC, the contest was the UK’s most watched women’s football game of all time. It attracted a peak of 6.1million watching on television and a 37.8 per cent share of the available audience.
England are next in action on Friday when they face Argentina in Le Havre.
They had a training session in Nice on Monday morning, which the outfield players who had started Sunday’s match sat out.
Toni Duggan, not involved against Scotland after feeling a thigh issue, was also absent from the session as she did gym work, but Demi Stokes – another not in the squad on Sunday – did take part.
Millie Bright sustained a shoulder problem during the game but it is not serious.