Nikita Parris admits she experienced a bout of “butterflies” for the first time ahead of her goalscoring World Cup debut.
The forward put England ahead in the 14th minute of Sunday’s 2-1 Group D win over Scotland in Nice, confidently converting a penalty awarded following a VAR review.
Parris had said earlier in the week that while she was a player who did not feel pressure, it was impossible to know how she would feel when making her first appearance on the biggest stage of all.
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) June 9, 2019
When asked after the match how she had felt going into it, the 25-year-old, who is joining French powerhouses Lyon this summer having left Manchester City, said: “I didn’t have any expectation coming into the game.
“All I thought to myself was ‘it’s another grass pitch, 22 players, 11 of ours and 11 of theirs, and we’ve got to beat them’. That’s what I think when I go out on the pitch.
“But I’m not going to lie to you. I sat in the hotel room and said to Abbie (McManus), my room-mate – I’ve got butterflies. Before lunch. She was like ‘just go to sleep and wake up’. So I went to sleep, woke up and I thought ‘oh, they’re gone’.
“It was the first time, I hadn’t experienced a moment like that before. But I just stuck to myself and said to myself ‘what two things can you bring to the game today?’ And that’s passion and drive, and all the rest came for me.”
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) June 9, 2019
On her thoughts just prior to taking the spot-kick, she said: “I just try to stay calm and composed. The atmosphere’s there to intimidate you, but I try to soak it in, because the more atmosphere I get in my body then the more passionate I am about putting the ball in the back of the net.”
As she celebrated, Parris held up four fingers, and she said: “The four was for me, Toni (Duggan), Mary Earps and Abbie – we’re four musketeers, constantly together.
“They’ve helped me through my journey and I appreciate them so much. And moving forward I’m going to need them more than ever.”
Parris also in the first half produced an impressive nutmeg as she tricked her way past Nicola Docherty.
Asked if she had done it before, Parris said: “Oh yeah, just look on the clips! I’d done my research on the full-back and I knew she was going to come steaming in so I had to do something, whether it was take a foul or just try and spin her.”
England bossed things during the first half, with Ellen White making it 2-0 with a 40th-minute finish, before their levels dropped in the second, and it was a nervy finale after Claire Emslie netted for Scotland in the 79th minute.
Parris said: “Ultimately it was a win on the table but it wasn’t good enough in the second half.
“I’m not going to sit here and say that Scotland didn’t dominate for 15 minutes of the game – and that’s not good enough. We were only 2-0 at half-time and then we came out too complacent.
“We’ve got a win on the board but we want a better performance against Argentina (on Friday).”
Scotland’s goal came after England captain Steph Houghton gave the ball away. Boss Phil Neville said Houghton had tried to “make the pass that we practise” and that he would not criticise her for that.
Houghton said: “My job is to be brave and play out from the back and I do that every single week whether that’s for England or for my club (Manchester City) so it’s not going to stop me from doing that.
“There’s going to be wrong decision-making sometimes, but ultimately it was all about the win.”
The centre-back added: “I thought overall we deserved the win. For us that first-half performance is what this England team is about. We dropped off a little in the second half, which we’re a bit disappointed with, but ultimately if you had said when I was in the press conference did we want to just go and win the game – we certainly did that.
“Keeping the ball maybe could have been a bit better. But at the same time we don’t need to be peaking in this first game, we don’t need to be playing the best football we can be playing and as players we want to keep improving.”