•      Fri Jun 21 2024
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England win shootout to reach quarter-finals



England scraped through to the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup with a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Nigeria after surviving a grueling onslaught having gone down to 10 players.

Despite the first penalty-taker, Georgia Stanway, firing wide, Nigeria missed their next two efforts and the European champions secured their spot in the last eight when Chloe Kelly smashed in the winning kick.

England were given an almighty scare but will face Colombia or Jamaica next.

It was an excruciating watch for England supporters in Brisbane as England played 120 minutes on a knife’s edge and were largely second best to Nigeria.

James’ petulance meant England had to navigate extra time with 10 players, and Nigeria had their tails up following a sustained period of pressure prior to the Chelsea star’s sending-off.

The 11-time African champions executed their gameplan to perfection, frustrating England, causing them problems on the break and winning almost every duel.

They hit the crossbar in each half, Ashleigh Plumptre’s powerful drive ricocheting off the woodwork before Uchenna Kanu’s header looped over goalkeeper Mary Earps and bounced off the top of the bar.

Earps was kept busy throughout, needing to produce smart saves to deny Plumptre at her near post in the first half and later keeping out Uchenna Kanu, who had an excellent performance.

Sarina Wiegman’s England side thought they had a penalty in the first half when Rachel Daly went down claiming a push by Rasheedat Ajibade, but it was overturned by VAR.

Eventually, England stumbled to the end of normal time lacking the fluidity they showed in abundance in the impressive display against China and held on to seal the deal in a shootout.

Only 24 hours earlier, back-to-back champions the USA were knocked out of the competition, and England were forced to show resilience to overcome one of their most challenging matches of Wiegman’s tenure.

James’ red card puts dampener on impressive tournament

In the build-up to England’s last-16 tie there was plenty of praise for James, who has been simply sensational so far in Australia.

The 21-year-old stole the show in Adelaide when she scored two goals and assisted three in England’s thrashing of China in their final group game.

But, as Wiegman has often reminded people, James is still young in terms of international experience, with this only her 15th appearance since making her debut a year ago.

She struggled to get on the ball in the first half as England’s build-up play was slow and disconnected – a far cry from their slick attacking play against China.

As the game wore on several England players became frustrated. They were fortunate James’ reactionary stamp did not prove too costly and they showed the type of resilience that has formed since Wiegman’s arrival in September 2021.

James will miss the quarter-finals and could face a longer suspension should Fifa deem it worthy.

Her loss will certainly be felt given she is England’s leading scorer at the tournament, having also popped up to provide the winner in the 1-0 victory over Denmark in the second group game.

Nigeria leave with heads held high

Nigeria manager Randy Waldrum had already praised his side’s efforts in escaping a group containing Olympic champions Canada, co-hosts Australia and plucky debutants the Republic of Ireland.

He said victory over European champions England could have “significant implications” for the development of women’s football in Nigeria, but they can exit the tournament with their heads held high.

They more than matched England and carried momentum going into extra time, but just could not provide the ruthlessness that was needed.

England captain Millie Bright made numerous last-ditch blocks, Earps faced more shots in the first half than in any other game under Wiegman and Nigeria rattled the Lionesses.

All signs had started to point to a historic Nigeria victory – they were seeking to become the first African nation to win a knockout tie – and even a corner from Stanway floated wide in a rare break-up of Nigeria possession late in the second half.

But in the end England found a way, as they so often have under Wiegman, and it was the familiar sight of Kelly – who netted the winning penalty in the shootout victory over Brazil in the Women’s Finalissima and scored the Euro 2022 winner against Germany – who ran away celebrating at the end.

(Source: BBC.COM)