It’s been an interesting 2023 Women’s World Cup, to say the least. The U.S. was sent home by Sweden and the Netherlands shut out South Africa. So if trends are to continue, there was no doubt that the next group of Round of 16 matches was going to be chaotic in the best way possible.
Let’s take a look at the action from day three of the knockout rounds!
England bests Nigeria in another penalty shootout
It’s the second game in two days that needed penalty kicks to decide who would advance to the quarterfinals. It was also another dramatic match as England and Nigeria both wanted that coveted spot.
There were three words that described the England team: Outplayed, outclassed but magically, not out. FIFA’s 40th-ranked Nigerian squad was determined to keep up and play better (they did) against the number four-ranked Lionesses. The Super Falcons looked poised to be the latest team to upset a favored nation, sending England the way of Brazil, Canada, Germany, and the U.S.
England’s Starting XI was a bit of a surprise. Keira Walsh appeared 10 days after she left the pitch on a stretcher in agony. The Lionesses decided to stick with a back-three formation. Nigeria was a different threat to England. They played a more transitional style than England expected and their backline was tested the entire 120 minutes.
Don’t get this writer wrong: England had chances but they fell short. Alessia Russo latched on to an error by the defender Oluwatosin Demehin and found herself clean through but Chiamaka Nnadozie dived low and blocked the shot.
But the social media moment of the game came in the 85th minute of regulation. Lauren James boiled over and stood on the back of Michelle Alozie, who had dispossessed her and was face-down on the ground. The Chelsea player received a yellow card but it was overturned after a VAR review and James was rightly dismissed – an instant one-match ban will probably become more after review.
120 minutes wasn’t enough time to get this one done so penalties they go. England’s Georgia Stanway missed her shot. Then Nigeria’s Desire Oparanozie and Alozie both missed. while England sunk four, clinching the Lionesses’ berth in the quarterfinals. The Super Falcons gave them more of a fight than England expected and that’s something to hang your hat on. The hugely impressive Nigeria team is still trying to fight with their federation just to get paid. England now has work to do and they have to do it without James.
And just for a small bit of excellent sportsmanship:
Australia sends home Demark with a 2-0 win
As the sole host nation left, Australia had the burden to bear of making sure they were well represented in the Round of 16. And against Denmark, they got the best gift of the day: the return of Sam Kerr. Kerr was out with a calf injury at the beginning of the tournament and sat out. With their star back, Australia had nothing to lose.
They got things cooking in the 29th minute. Denmark’s attacking ball was on the edge of the Matildas’ area was miscued and found its way to Caitlin Foord. She was much further back than her left-wing position would ordinarily dictate but she netted the left footer to put the home squad on the board one-nil.
Denmark pressed the Matildas hard in the first half. Their pressure increased but the Matildas held on. It was not pretty but it was effective, and Australia entered half-time with a one‑goal advantage. They added to their lead as the ball came central at the top of Denmark’s area. Emily van Egmond lurked in the six-yard box and considered a shot before passing back toward an unmarked Hayley Raso.
80th minute, Kerr warmed up on the sidelines to start the second half but it was scary for a brief moment. It looked to be the cherry on top of a solid Australia win – then Kerr fell. As she lay on the pitch, Australia coach Tony Gustavsson worried he had made the wrong call by putting her in. Every Aussie fan held their breath but not to worry! Kerr got back up, apparently fine, the crowd cheered again in relief.
Denmark’s chances were limited in the second half and as the final whistle sounded, the Matildas celebrated. Australia will now head to Brisbane for their quarter-final on Saturday, where they will face the winner of the match on Tuesday between France and Morocco.
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Mandatory Credit: AP Photo/Tertius Pickard, & AP Photo/Mark Baker