From a surprise penalty scorer in Jordan Pickford to a more conventional one here. The figure of a darting Nikita Parris, forehead gleaming in the oppressive Nice heat, leaping into the celebration for her first World Cup goal, fists pummelling the air, embodied England’s slick, impressive opening performance and they ultimately saw off an inferior Scotland side with very little strain.
For all the consternation and hand-wringing that had followed their stalling send-off at Brighton, the fear of an injury Millie Bright, replaced by Abbie McManus after the Chelsea centre back landed on her shoulder after stumbling over Erin Cutbert, is, realistically, the only worry that will dominate Phil Neville’s thoughts given he is already monitoring the fitness of Demi Stokes and Toni Duggan.
Inevitably, enthusiasm is tempered somewhat by the nagging feeling that this was an unfair balance of resources. You can, of course, only play what’s in front of you, but England’s best two players – Parris and Bronze – play for the richest women’s team in the world in Lyon. Of Scotland’s final 23, seven are usually part-time players. They have had government funding for the past six months to enable them to replicate full-time training. Nicola Docherty, the full back who will tonight find her nightmares haunted by visions of a freewheeling Parris, balances football with a career as a full-time dementia carer.
The attendance, too, was a worry, bearing in mind both the FA and Fifa understood to have been confident of a sell-out as late as Tuesday. Given the Stade de Nice a short hop from the United Kingdom, it is galling in the extreme that one of England’s most complete performances under Neville was played out to a backdrop of empty seats and an eventual crowd – 13,188 – four thousand shy of the attendance for Brazil v Jamaica.
It would not be generous to say this first half became, ultimately, as one-sided as the last time this pair met. Thoughts of England replicating their 6-0 triumph at Euro 2017 felt fanciful in those opening ten minutes when Erin Cuthbert, Chelsea’s Player of the Year, spun and whirred down the right and unleashed Claire Emslie into a battle of pace against Millie Bright. Cuthbert then had a free run at Steph Houghton but the England captain unflappably shepherded away the danger.
Bronze’s cross from deep was nudged wide by Sophie Howard, rising highest to smother Beath Mead at the far post, and in the sparsely-populated Stade de Nice England juddered through the gears before the moment Fran Kirby’s cross smacked against the outstretched arm of Nicole Docherty inside the area.
After the referee, Jana Adamkova, made the telltale rectangle in the air to defer to VAR, Parris drove the ensuing spot kick high past Alexander’s right. England’s most glorious spell all culminated in the moment Parris, in a swell of reckless abandon, reverse-nutmeddged Doherty deep in the England half and pelted down the right, oceans of green stretching before her. Her gleeful spree of swagger did not stop there and the thundering tackle from Jen Beattie that earned her a yellow card betrayed a centre half exasperated by Parris’ constant, mercliess taunting.
England thought they had made it two when White, miles offside, latched on to Keira Walsh’s ball over the top and slipped a low drive into the far corner, the flag curtailing White’s premature celebration. She would have opened her account earlier had Alexander not tumbled into a reaction save from point-blank range after Bronze had skinned Docherty again. There was time for her to be denied once more before full time but only after she had added England’s second. Rachel Corsie miscued her tackle on Fran Kirby and White – announced as Ellen Blanc by the stadium announcer – pounced on the loose ball to finish.
England, by then, were in something approaching cruise control. It took Mead forty second-half seconds to convert White’s delivery from deep but England were denied, again, by the flag. In truth, they should have managed the game a little better from then on, and Parris’ soaring snap-volley, under no pressure, demonstrated that rash streak that can often turn her into a frustration for England.
Scotland harried and pushed, Lisa Evans’ low drive giving Karen Bardlsey a fright, and it would not have been hard, in those moments when Chloe Arthur trundled down England’s left, to envisage them snatching a late point. At times the noise of Scotland’s travelling contingent seemed to will the ball into the goal and an uncharacteristically misplaced pass from Houghton gifted possession to Evans. Her slipped delivery was tucked home with ease by Claire Emslie and thereafter England looked a little nervy.
It was not hard to fear the worst given Scotland’s team hotel is the same one Iceland stayed at before they knocked England out of the Euros three years ago – but Georgia Stanway’s late pressing ensured England survived their only real spell of pressure.
England XI (4-3-3): Bardsley; Bronze, Houghton, Bright (McManus 55), Greenwood; Scott, Kirby (Stanway 82), Walsh; Parris, White, Mead (Carney 71).
Subs not used: Telford (g), Earps (g), Taylor, Williamson, Moore, Daly, Staniforth
Scotland (4-5-1) Alexander; Howard (Arthur 75), Corsie, Beattie, Docherty (Smith 55); Evans, Murray (Arnot 87), Little, Weir, Emslie; Cuthbert
Bookings: Beattie, Docherty
Subs not used: Lynn (g), Fife (g), Loe, Lauder, Crichton, Ross, Murray, Clelland, Brown
Full time England 2 Scotland 1
While Kerr is buoyed by Scotland’s reactive second-half display, an angry-looking Phil Neville has just given his team a very stern team talk as the group huddle on the pitch. Speaking after to the BBC, he said:
I was pleased with the result the first game is always the most difficult. We set standards and the players know we can’t drop below those standards.
We’ve got to be relentless now. We’ve got to be here for the next 37 games. I’m the biggest problem now. I’ve got to keep the standards. It was a lesson in this second half that every world cup game is going to be difficult.
Full time England 2 Scotland 1
It was a terrific first half from Neville’s side and that crucial VAR decision so early on in the game clearly startled Scotland so early into their World Cup account. Lee Alexander came to her side’s rescue so many times throughout and England could have easily scored more from the chances they created.
Shelley Kerr is taking a lot of positives from her side’s second half performance and has no criticism on her side’s unfortunate VAR decision which resulted in England’s penalty. Speaking after the match, she said:
I don’t want to comment too much. The referees have got a difficult job. What I want to do right now is applaud the players on their second half performance.”
Full time England 2 Scotland 1
And that’s it. Steph Houghton looks relieved as the final whistle is blown. That was a very nervy end for England who close out the win.
90 mins + 2 England 2 Scotland 1
We’re into added time.
Stanway finds some space about 30 yards out and sends a curling effort which bends around the post.
Parris takes back possesion but isn’t racing forward now, England are running down the clock.
Scotland need this ball if they are to have a final say on this game.
89 mins England 2 Scotland 1
Greenwood is taking her time with a throw in and the Scottish fans are letting her know what they think of it.
There’s a massive cheer whenever Scotland get the ball now. Cuthbert clips Bronze in the middle of the park and England have a free kick.
85mins England 2 Scotland 1
Scotland’s maiden World Cup goal has swung the momentum of the game and England look nervy. There’ll be a couple of minutes of stoppage time. Carney is doing everything she can to compose the team up front. As a senior player and valued voice of the dressing room, England will need her now more than ever as the Scots search for an equaliser.
82mins England 2 Scotland 1
Scotland have brought a different energy to this second half. Whatever Kerr said to her players in the dressing room, it seems to be working – but they’ve only got 10 minutes to avoid defeat here.
Georgia Stanway comes on for Fran Kirby.
79 mins GOAL England 2 Scotland 1
The Scots have a goal back and it’s none other than… Emslie who has scrambled the ball home.
England give the ball away just outside the area and Lisa Evans intercepts and drives forward. Not one England player comes near her and finds Emslie who this time, finishes.
74 mins England 2 Scotland 0
This is a much better half from Scotland, with much better movement on and off the ball which has been largely spearheaded by Emslie in attack.
Evans latches onto a through ball and squeezes the ball towards the goal, but it’s an easy one for Bardsley, who dives to her left.
71 mins England 2 Scotland 0
Alexander comes to Scotland’s rescue again and the women in blue are indebted once again to their goalkeeper. Scott heads the ball horizontally and the lingering White catches the ball with a low volley, which she thumps at Alexander.
Karen Carney – the oldest player in England’s squad – comes on for her 141st appearance at her fourth at a World Cup finals.
68 mins England 2 Scotland 0
Bardsley astutely punches away the in-swinging corner, which looks to be heading in.
The Scots are enjoying a sustained period of pressure deep in England’s half. Little sends in another corner but the towering Scott jumps high to head away the dangerous ball.
66 mins England 2 Scotland 0
Emslie flies down the right again and is marshalled into a corner by Scott and Greenwood to force a throw in, before the Scots win their first corner of the match.
62 mins England 2 Scotland 0
Emslie has done so well to exploit the right flank and manages to tip-toe her way around a couple of white shirts, only for her cross to be cleared in the area.
60 mins England 2 Scotland 0
Kim Little has been quiet so far but the midfielder is now beginning to find small pockets of space in England’s half.
Kerr is encouraging her team to press in England’s defensive third – and her players are responding.
57 mins England 2 Scotland 0
Abbie McManus has come on for Bright, who won’t return to the field.
Scotland have also made a substitution, Doherty is replaced by Kirsty Smith.
55 mins England 2 Scotland 0
The ball is booted out high and the ball finds Phil Neville on the sidelines, who controls it perfectly. He looks like he’s starting to relax as we approach the hour mark.
53 mins England 2 Scotland 0
Millie Bright leaves the field after a clash and Bronze slots into centre back, while Parris moves into left back.
Phil Neville has been greatly criticised for his experimental back four combinations. Today’s centre back pairing with Bright and Houghton is the first time the pair have started since November last year.
49 mins England 2 Scotland 0
Mead looks like a prime contender to grab England’s third. The Arsenal forward has been teasing the Scottish back four throughout this game but has lacked that clinical finish.
46 mins England 2 Scotland 0
England immediately go on the counter and Parris finds White, who in turns squares it to Mead who thumps the ball into the goal. But White was in an offside position and the goal is disallowed.
46 mins England 2 Scotland 0
And the second half is underway.
Can Scotland find a way back? They did in their qualifying campaign. Kerr’s side battled back from 2-0 against Poland, scoring three times in the last 15 minutes to seal a dramatic victory in Kielce in June last year.
This game isn’t over yet.
Half time England 2 Scotland 0
Our chief sports writer, Paul Hayward, who is at the game in Nice, has also been impressed with Parris’ partnership with Bronze.
A spectacular World Cup debut by Nikita Parris, who’s destroying Scotland’s left side, in league with Lucy Bronze. Slick attacking play by England. 2-0 half-time.
— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) June 9, 2019
Half time England 2 Scotland 0
It’s that trademark celebration from White, who has continued her fine international form of late. She’s been so busy around the danger area and pounced when Scotland went to sleep.
Half time England 2 Scotland 0
The whistle blows and both teams head down the tunnel for half-time.
Phil Neville’s side will be very content with those 45 minutes and are in the driving seat. Parris stepped up as cool as a cucumber to put England ahead after that contentious decision. Only 3.4 yards separated Kirby and Doherty as the ball rode up to strike the Scot’s outstretched arm.
England have bossed it down the right and as expected, Parris has been the star of this show so far and her link-up play, both on the inside and outside of Bronze, has been unstoppable.
44 mins England 2 Scotland 0
Beattie fouls Parris who is performing another one of her trademark runs down the flank.
Mead sends a cruel delivery in and Lee just does enough to force a corner, before Scotland manage to clear.
42 mins England 2 Scotland 0
What a chance for the Scots! Walsh is robbed right outside the area and the ball falls to Cuthbert, who immediately strikes low, but watches her effort sail past Bardsley’s right post.
40 mins GOAL England 2 Scotland 0
She had one ruled out earlier, but this time Ellen White scores to double England’s lead.
The ball falls to the forward at the top of the area after a lapse in Scottish concentration and curls it into the net past a helpless Lee.
39 mins England 1 Scotland 0
Shelley Kerr is screaming at her players to get up and support a lone Cuthbert, who is rather isolated up front at the moment.
33 mins England 1 Scotland 0
England are now bossing it in midfield and capitalising on this momentum. There’s another appeal for handball as the ball rides up in the box to touch Weir’s arm again – but we’re not switching to VAR this time. Scotland are struggling to deal with England’s threat down the right from the attacking duo of Bronze and Parris.
We’ll be seeing a lot more of this from the pair next season at Lyon…
29 mins England 1 Scotland 0
Claire Emslie dribbles the ball down the right as Scotland flood forward this time, only to strike her shot straight into the hands of Karen Bardsley.
25 mins England 1 Scotland 0
What a sublime piece of magic from Parris, who is bursting with confidence since scoring England’s opener from the spot. The Manchester City midfielder clips the ball forward from her inside ankle to leave her opponent in her wake as she races forward to start another attack.
23 mins England 1 Scotland 0
It’s still England and Keira Walsh threads through a looping pass to find White again, who heads the ball into the back of the net but she is clearly offside. Scotland need to regroup if they are to get a foothold in this game.
22 mins England 1 Scotland 0
Scotland’s Lee Alexander makes a crucial save with her left leg to deny Ellen White from close range, that was close.
16 mins England 1 Scotland 0
What a crucial moment in the game that VAR decision could turn out to be.
Scotland have more than matched England in this opening quarter and this is a real blow for them. Can they respond?
14 mins GOAL – England 1 Scotland 0
A cross sent in by Fran Kirby is adjudged to have touched Nicola Doherty’s arm after extensive VAR analysis. Did her arm make her body unnaturally bigger? Apparently so. Scotland fans are fuming as boos ring out at the Allianz Riviera.
Parris steps up. She thumps the ball into the back of the net and wheels away towards the dugout. England lead.
12 mins England 0 Scotland 0
Scott whips in the ensuing corner but no heads connect with the ball and Scotland clear.
11 mins England 0 Scotland 0
Scotland are committing players forward and are not holding back.
Parris links up with Jill Scott, who wins England’s second corner of the game.
8 mins England 0 Scotland 0
What a frantic opening to this game! Neither side can keep possession at the moment. Nikita Parris gathers the ball outside the area and rolls across, cutting inside a couple of Scottish defenders before being robbed of the ball. Cuthbert then zooms down the other end in acres of space, before pulling the ball back to Caroline Weir, whose long range effort is blocked.
5 mins England 0 Scotland 0
Jill Scott sends a dangerous cross into the area, but Corsie heads behind for a corner, before Scotland come away with the ball.
4 mins England 0 Scotland 0
We’ve already seen a glimpse of Erin Cuthbert’s attacking prowess. The Scot races down the right flank. It’s a bright start for Shelley Kerr’s side who aren’t looking daunted by the magnitude of this big occasion. Alex Greenwood gives away a sloppy pass in a dangerous position but England clear their lines.
2 mins England 0 Scotland 0
England immediately knock the ball up the field to try and find Kirby, but Corsie calmly ushers the ball out for a goal kick.
Lights, camera, action!
Both teams have had their last group huddles . We’re off. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, is watching on. Phil Neville is sporting his waistcoat. Sit back and enjoy.
Scottish smiles beaming
Each one of Scotland’s players are grinning from ear to ear as they sing ‘Flower of Scotland’. Shelley Kerr is calmly watching on, taking in this momentous occasion.
Scotland’s Kim Little a major threat
Kim Little missed out on the Euro 2017 and fractured her leg last October.
The Arsenal player is one of the best attacking midfielders in this history-making Scottish side. It will be interesting to see her match up with England’s Jill Scott. Will she spend the majority of this game tracking back in helping her side out defensively?
Lucy Bronze will drift forward from the back
Lucy Bronze, widely regarded as the best right-back in the world, is also expected to be a thorn in Scotland’s side in attack. Bronze loves racing down the left flank where she will partner up with Parris, who scored six goals in England’s World Cup qualifying campaign.
Key battles: Nikita Parris v Erin Cuthbert
On paper, this game will not be too dissimilar from a Women’s Super League fixture, but with the added spice of being played on the biggest stage in world football. Both sides boast a plethora of stars from England’s elite domestic league.
Scotland will have to contain the threat of Lyon-bound Nikita Parris, who will be a major attacking force in England’s midfield. The top-scorer of the WSL has established herself as one of the most lethal finishers in the women’s game and is tipped to be one of the breakthrough stars at this tournament.
The Scots also have firepower in their attacking artillery, notably through Chelsea midfielder, Erin Cuthbert, who scored a sensational goal in Scotland’s 3-2 win over Jamaica in front or a record crowd at Hampden Park in their last World Cup warm-up game.
Joined by Arsenal’s Kim Little and Manchester City’s Caroline Weir, there are certainly goals in this Scottish side sailing in unchartered waters.
Duggan and Stokes sit out, Scotland have a full-strength squad
Barcelona forward Toni Duggan and Manchester City defender Demi Stokes had been major doubts for tonight’s game. Duggan has failed to recover from a thigh problem, while Stokes has been hampered by a leg injury.
As a result, Beth Mead is rewarded with her World Cup debut and will partner Fran Kirby up front. The 25-year-old Arsenal striker has enjoyed a sterling season with the WSL Champions and has built a reputation as one of the best crossers of the ball in the league.
Manchester United captain, Alex Greenwood, comes in at the back in light of Stokes’ absence.
The starting line-ups are out! It’s a strong starting XI for both.
England XI: Karen Bardsley, Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Millie Bright, Alex Greenwood, Keira Walsh, Fran Kirby, Jill Scott, Nikita Parris, Ellen White, Beth Mead
Scotland XI: Lee Alexander, Sophie Howard, Rachel Corsie, Jen Beattie, Nicola Docherty, Kim Little, Lisa Evans, Christie Murray, Caroline Weir, Claire Emslie, Erin Cuthbert
Scotland relishing underdog tag
The Scots have won just two of 25 meetings between the sides and go into today’s match as major underdogs. The last time these auld rivals locked horns, Scotland were subjected to a 6-0 defeat in the opening match of Euro 2017 in the Netherlands.
But with a much-changed side to the one subjected to that drubbing two years ago, Kerr believes the pressure will all be on England. Despite the Scots’ unwanted record against their British neighbours, she insists her side will use their underdog status to their advantage.
There’s so many variables that can happen, especially in the first game, but I think there’s no doubt there’s certainly more pressure on England than there is on Scotland. However, the pressure that we have will be the pressure the players put themselves under. It’s going to be a tough, tough match, but we’re certainly hoping to get an end result.”
Phil Neville’s mission to inspire the next generation
Sports men and women often say pressure is the greatest privilege. But Phil Neville is adamant that inspiring the next crop of footballing talent in England is just as important as rising to the occasion at a time when his team have been subjected to their most intense media scrutiny in recent history.
People keep saying ‘you’ve got so much pressure on you to win the World Cup’ but the bigger thing for my players is providing a better platform for the next generation coming through. That’s the biggest pressure they put on themselves and that’s why they promote themselves so well.
They want the next girl, that girl in Newport Pagnell or Milton Keynes to be inspired by their words, their confidence and their beliefs. That inspires me. They really want – I’m not going to say equality because I don’t like that word – but they just want to be respected.”
Good evening and welcome to our live coverage of today’s game. It’s the one we’ve all been waiting for as England and Scotland open their World Cup campaigns at the Allianz Riviera in Nice.
Scotland will make history this evening when they run out at their first ever appearance at a World Cup. The tournament newcomers – who sit 20th in the Fifa rankings – will head into this opener as massive underdogs against an England side ranked third in the world and tipped as major contenders to go all the way in France.
Having watched hosts France lay down a marker with their impressive 4-0 victory over South Korea on Friday night, Phil Neville’s side will want to make a statement of their own. He said:
The challenge on Sunday is like no other tournament. It’s the first game, there are nerves, trepidation, fears, you have got to go through all that. I just want my players to play football.
They are so fired up to do well. We say to them every single day ‘it’s just a game, it’s not life or death, just pass the ball from me to you and you to her’, and that’s what we try to do.”
Meanwhile, Scotland manager Shelley Kerr has a fully-fit squad at her disposal as she attempts to mastermind her own victory plan against a “formidable” England side. She said:
Obviously it’s our first World Cup, [the first time] for a Scottish team to play in a World Cup for two decades. Our journey so far has been fantastic. We’re playing against a formidable England team ranked third in the world, and we know already that part of the reason Phil Neville took the job was to win the World Cup.
Forget performance for the moment – I think if you look at legacy, every part of our philosophy was to inspire the next generation in Scotland. The whole country has been captivated by the team getting to a World Cup, but we don’t want it to stop here.”
- Australia Can Win World Cup With Steve Smith And David Warner, Says Ricky Ponting
- 'I was just feeding the kids' – England's Ben Spencer on his World Cup call-up
- Fortnite World Cup punished over 1000 accounts in the first week alone
- Rugby mania has gripped Japan. Will it continue after the World Cup?
- New Zealand vs England Final: World Cup Head To Head Match Stats
- New Zealand vs England Preview, World Cup 2019: New Zealand, England Vie For Maiden World Cup Glory
- Martin Guptill Posts Pleasing Message For Wife, Daughter After "Best And Worst" World Cup Final
- Defence will be Springboks’ strength against England in World Cup final
- World Cup Semi-Final: Hat-Trick Man Mohammed Shami Not Part of India Playing XI vs New Zealand
- Watch: Martin Guptill Loses Balance, Hits Wicket During World Cup Match Against South Africa