There was an all too familiar ruthlessness with which Lucy Bronze and Nikita Parris, who will both be playing for Lyon from next season, attacked the part-time care worker and Scotland left-back Nicola Docherty. That same efficiency was on display at the Parc des Princes on Friday in a France team built around the treble‑winning stars of that Lyon side – but it can almost look cruel.

There is only one setting for any player at the six-times European champions: they play turned up all the way to 11 and then some – a testament to the elite professional environment they foster that is unmatched anywhere in the world in the women’s game. Thus it was fitting that the Lyon-bound Parris should be the player linking so resolutely with Bronze – who has been at the French club since 2017 – on England’s right.

“We have a connection that I haven’t had with any other full-back. She made my time at Manchester City special and hopefully will make my time at Lyon special. She’s a great player, even more so for England. We have a great relationship,” said Parris who dispatched her penalty with the kind of coolness that will fit in well at the Groupama Stadium, as will the taunting celebrations that followed.

“The atmosphere’s there to intimidate you,” said Parris. “But I try to soak it all in, because the more atmosphere I get in my body the more passionate I am about putting the ball in the back of the net.”

This was Parris’s first World Cup match. In 2015 she was on holiday in Egypt. “I’m not going to lie to you, I sat in my hotel room and had butterflies. It was the first time. I hadn’t experienced a moment like that. But ultimately I stuck with myself and thought – what two things can you bring to the game today? That’s passion, and drive, and all the rest came for me.”

For Docherty, the constant threat will have been exhausting. With Manchester City’s set-piece specialist Caroline Weir drifting inside a little too often and leaving the full-back to deal with Parris’s terrier-like runs and Bronze’s power, essentially alone, there was just no let-up.

It was telling that after the break Weir hugged closer to her touchline in an attempt to help stem the tidal wave on the right wing, the view from up high – really high – in the press box clearly matching the one in Shelley Kerr’s technical area. Just 10 minutes after the restart Docherty’s tired legs were hooked in favour of Manchester United’s Kirsty Smith. The exhausted full-back was removed shortly after receiving a yellow card for clattering into Parris, sort of inevitable given the circumstances, to avoid any possibility of a reduction in their numbers.

When Millie Bright was taken off for treatment on a shoulder injury, it was Bronze who fell back and helped marshal a temporary back three, the right-back pulling Parris backwards and alongside her. As if connected by a rope they moved in unison, a sight to delight any watching and expectant Lyon fans.

It was only a temporary relocation. With Abbie McManus on for Bright, Bronze renewed her right-sided shift at a time when Smith and Lisa Evans began to provide a slightly tougher test.

Nikita Parris with her player of the match award after England’s 2-1 win over Scotland in Nice.

Nikita Parris with her player of the match award after England’s 2-1 win over Scotland in Nice. Photograph: Cathrin Mueller – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

This, though, is Lyon’s finest and they were not to be moved. There was a rare lapse of concentration from Bronze that had let Smith slip past her but it only upped the full-back’s energy levels. Within minutes she was pushing boldly into the back of Evans, not allowing the Arsenal forward any room to turn or get the ball out of her feet. Whether it be a powerful leg stretched to keep a ball in play or a gut-busting run to force a corner that many others would leave, Bronze demonstrated exactly why she was a Ballon d’Or nominee.

After Claire Emslie’s 78th-minute goal reduced the deficit for Scotland it was Bronze, who had been entirely blameless for the concession, who held on to the ball as Erin Cuthbert was desperately trying to get it back to get the game restarted at 2-1 to England, screaming “it’s our ball” at the referee before she slowly sidled to the middle.

As the clock ticked down it was Bronze who fell to the ground in the centre circle or worked the ball out wide to the corner and held on for as long as possible. Lyon are the masters of the psychological game and there would be no pandering to the Scots’ haste here.

Moments later she was on hand to throw herself between the ever potent Cuthbert and guide the ball into the onrushing arms of her goalkeeper, Karen Bardsley.

England held on and what is perhaps scary is that neither Bronze nor Parris was at her clinical best. Left-backs beware.



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