Jess Carter: Prospect of facing Spain in World Cup final will not sway my nerves

By Sports Desk August 19, 2023

England defender Jess Carter is adamant even the prospect of playing Spain in Sunday’s World Cup final will not sway her steely nerves.

While many footballers will claim they take a business-as-usual approach to even the biggest games, the declaration feels especially genuine when articulated by the laidback 25-year-old, who has been instrumental in ensuring the Lionesses have conceded just three goals in their unbeaten run to the title decider.

The Lionesses have already assured themselves of a best-ever finish in a global showpiece by reaching this stage, and Carter is confident they can go one step further to secure England a first World Cup since 1966.

Asked if she would have any stage fright on Sunday, Carter replied: “Personally, I won’t have. It’s football.

“I’m not really a nervous person. I understand and know from the outside, it’s the World Cup final, your biggest moment. I play my best when I’m super calm. At the end of the day, it’s just a game of football.

“We have to perform as we did in the first group game. Maybe some people have nerves but I think that will be challenged into positive energy come the night.

“I’m super excited – I don’t think it has really sunk in yet.

“There’s been such a quick turnaround between the last game and the next that you almost don’t have time to notice what’s been going on. It’s head down, rest, recovery and get ready to go again.”

Each member of a team brings something different. Though Carter had not fully considered it, she acknowledged serenity could be seen as her signature strength.

She said: “I think I chat with everyone and that’s something that a lot of the girls say, that I am super chill. I’ve had a couple of people feed back to say that it’s a really nice, I guess, aura to be around a little bit.”

Carter’s journey to this point started later than many of her team-mates’.

Though she started playing casually when she was “four or five”, the now 25-year-old did not join an academy until she was 15, following a successful trial with Birmingham and – in her own words – was not a “consistent presence” in England’s youth set-up.

The Warwick native received her first senior call-up in 2017 and made her debut that November against Kazakhstan in a 2017 World Cup qualifier, but was not called back until nearly four years later, when then-new England boss Sarina Wiegman took a chance and named Carter in her first squad in September 2021.

Carter has been vital this campaign, starting every game except England’s second – a 1-0 victory over Denmark – and rapidly adjusted when Wiegman switched systems from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2 after that match with Carter, captain Millie Bright and veteran Alex Greenwood forming the back three.

She said: “When I didn’t play against Denmark, I wasn’t not bothered, but it was just like, ‘I’ve just played in a World Cup, I had more minutes than I thought I was ever going to get coming into this tournament’. I didn’t come into the tournament expecting to play at all.

“I was so honoured to be part of the team. Obviously, of course, you always want to play every minute and when I spoke to Sarina and (heard) her reasons and our tactics, she’s going to make the best decisions that she thinks are appropriate to go and win a game.”

Carter, who can slot into both defence and midfield, does wonder how her career might have looked different had she instead been afforded the opportunity to nail down a single position, admitting: “That’s the question I ask myself every single day.

“It’s definitely something that’s a massive positive, but at the same time, sometimes I do wish that if I could just play this one position, absolutely smash it. Then I wonder what level I could get myself to if I could just focus on that point.”

Make no mistake, Carter is competitive and is as determined to win the World Cup as the rest of her team-mates, but the unfailingly calm and collected character comes out again when asked if she has stopped to think about how lifting the trophy could change her life.

She replied: “No. I’m just going to go home. I’m going to go home to my apartment, really and I don’t know, just chill.”

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