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England squeeze past Nigeria into World Cup quarter finals

The Lionesses have booked their place in the last eight of the Women’s World Cup 2023, scraping past Nigeria via a dramatic penalty shootout.

WWC23 ENGLAND NIGERIA, Chloe Kelly of England left celebrates with Alex Greenwood right after she kicked the winning penalty goal to defeat Nigeria in the FIFA Women s World Cup 2023

England‘s Lionesses showcased resilience and determination as they scraped through to the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup in a nerve-wracking penalty shootout victory over a formidable Nigerian side. Despite facing adversity with Lauren James’ red card, Sarina Wiegman‘s squad held their nerve and secured a spot in the last eight, where they will face either Colombia or Jamaica.

The match in Brisbane provided an excruciating watch for England supporters as the Lionesses battled through 120 minutes on a knife’s edge, with Nigeria largely dominating the game. Georgia Stanway‘s opening penalty miss set the tone for a challenging encounter, but Nigeria failed to capitalize on their opportunities, missing their next two efforts.

The turning point came in the 87th minute when Lauren James lost possession and in a fit of frustration, stamped on Michelle Alozie‘s back. Following a VAR review, James was rightfully shown a red card, leaving England to navigate extra time with only 10 players. Nigeria seized the momentum, executing their game plan with precision, frustrating England, and causing problems on the break.

Nigeria frustrate England

Throughout the match, Nigeria‘s threat was evident, hitting the crossbar twice in each half. Ashleigh Plumptre‘s powerful drive rattled the woodwork, and Uchenna Kanu‘s header looped over goalkeeper Mary Earps, bouncing off the top of the bar. Earps was kept busy throughout the game, making smart saves to deny Plumptre and Kanu, who delivered an excellent performance.

England thought they had a penalty in the first half when Rachel Daly went down, claiming a push by Rasheedat Ajibade. However, VAR overturned the decision, adding to the tension of the contest.

As the match headed to its conclusion, England struggled to find the fluidity they had displayed in their impressive victory against China. Nevertheless, they managed to hold on and seal the deal in a nail-biting shootout.

Pride for Nigeria, Relief for England

England’s manager, Sarina Wiegman, commended Nigeria‘s performance, acknowledging the challenges her team faced during the intense encounter. “I don’t know what my heart rate is, I just know I’m 10 years’ older,” said Wiegman. “We had trouble getting out of their press. We could do a little better but I also think we should give them credit.”

Nigeria’s manager, Randy Waldrum, praised his team’s efforts throughout the tournament, especially in escaping a challenging group containing Olympic champions Canada, co-hosts Australia, and the Republic of Ireland. Despite their exit from the competition, Waldrum expressed pride in his players, stating, “They have such a bright future. The players came together in an unbelievable way. They just played their hearts out, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

In the end, England‘s experience and tenacity prevailed, as they found a way to overcome one of their most challenging matches under Wiegman’s leadership. Captain Millie Bright‘s numerous last-ditch blocks and Earps‘ outstanding saves were crucial in keeping the Lionesses in the game. The historic victory for Nigeria narrowly eluded them, but their performance demonstrated their potential to compete with the world’s best teams.

As England progress to the quarter-finals, they will look ahead to their next match against either Colombia or Jamaica on Saturday.

George Boxall
28 articles
18+ | Please play responsibly | Terms and Conditions apply | Commercial Content