WWC: Second best England sneaks into quarters at expense of bossy but unlucky Nigeria’s Falcons

WWC: Second best England sneaks into quarters at expense of bossy but unlucky Nigeria’s Falcons


England scraped through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup after a 4-2 penalty win over Nigeria in the last 16.

The defending European champions were lucky to hold onto a 0-0 draw after the Super Falcons hit the woodwork three times and Lauren James was sent off.

The Lionesses laboured against the fluent Nigeria’s Super Falcons wo bossed the ball in the Women’s World Cup, unlucky not to bury the match in a last-16 penalty shootout on Monday with Chloe Kelly scoring the decisive spot-kick, following a 0-0 draw over 120 nerve-jangling minutes.

Sarina Wiegman-managed side showed incredible character to grind their way through to penalties before Chloe Kelly slammed home the winner after Nigeria missed their first two spot kicks.

Beth England, Rachel Daly and Alex Greenwood also converted for the European champions, who had a player sent off in regulation time. England played with 10 women through extra time after forward Lauren James, their top scorer with three goals in the group stage, was sent off in the 87th minute for an ill-tempered stamp on the back of Michelle Alonzi after the two went down in a tangled heap.

Fourth-ranked England face either Jamaica or Colombia in the quarter-finals in Sydney on Saturday.

The Three Lionesses recovered from Lauren James’ reckless red card to move one step closer to Women’s World Cup glory by beating Nigeria in a tense penalty shootout.

The Lionesses feared becoming the latest big name to crash out of the tournament as Nigeria largely dominated the last-16 clash in Brisbane and were spurred on by James’ dismissal for violent conduct late on. But England showed the resolve and character that helped them become European champions last year to keep Nigeria at bay in extra-time before winning the shootout 4-2.

England were again fearing the worst when Georgia Stanway blasted the first penalty wide, but Nigeria failed to hit the target with their first two spot-kicks before Chloe Kelly scored to send the Lionesses through.

England continue their World Cup bid on Saturday when they face Colombia or Jamaica in the quarter-finals. Wiegman’s team, who topped Group D with victories over Haiti, Denmark and China, were buoyed by the return of midfielder Kiera Walsh, while Barcelona forward Asisat Oshoala was only fit for a place on the Nigeria bench.

But the Lionesses were second best for much of the first half as Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie threatened from a corner before Ashleigh Plumptre twice came close to breaking the deadlock. Plumptre, who represented England at youth level before switching allegiances in 2021, was denied by the crossbar with Mary Earps beaten, before the Manchester United goalkeeper reacted well to push a shot wide.

England’s first chance of note fell to Alessia Russo but Arsenal’s new signing was denied by Chiamaka Nnadozie before Nigeria’s goalkeeper palmed away a Rachel Daly volley. The European champions were awarded a penalty on 31 minutes as Daly went to ground following a slight push from Rasheedat Ajibade, but the decision was overturned by VAR.

While England settled ahead of the half-time interval, Nigeria still looked dangerous and could have been in front had it not been for two blocks from centre-back duo Millie Bright and Jess Carter. Nigeria continued to threaten as the second half got underway, with Uchenna Kanu hitting the bar with a looping header, although Earps may have had it covered.

The introduction of five-time African player of the season Oshoala failed to break a mid-match lull, although Russo wasted a decent chance when she headed over from Alex Greenwood’s inviting free-kick. With extra-time looming, England came close through a towering Daly header, although Nigeria fans were also on the edge of their seats as Oshoala found space only to fire over.

England were reduced to ten late on as James, one of the stars of the tournament, was sent off for violent conduct after petulantly stamping on Nigeria’s Alozie. Boosted by their numerical advantage, the Super Falcons had a decent penalty appeal waved away when Alozie was bundled over by Lucy Bronze, and the same player sliced wide from close-range shortly after.

Chances were few and far between in the second-half of extra-time, with England coping well despite playing with ten as Oshoala shot straight at Earps with Nigeria’s only real opportunity. England were relieved to reach penalties given James’ dismissal but the shootout did not initially go as planned, Stanway firing wide with the Lionesses’ first attempt.

But Beth England dispatched her spot-kick either side of two terrible Nigeria penalties as the Lionesses took control of the shootout. Nigeria regained their composure to prolong the tension but Kelly emphatically rifled home the decisive penalty to send England through to the quarter-finals.

With several World Cup contenders already crashing out – including four-time winners and holders USA – England will fancy their chances of going all the way despite an underwhelming performance against Nigeria.

  • A Tell / Reuters / Metro report
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