England has reached the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup after narrowly surviving a major scare to defeat a relentless Nigeria on penalties.
The European champions had to cling on for 30 minutes of extra time after Lauren James was sent off for stamping on the back of Nigeria player Michelle Alozie in the 87th minute during a ‘moment of madness’.
The Lionesses had already been under intense pressure from the African nation – ranked 40th in the world – who had outclassed the squad for much of their bruising encounter in Brisbane, Australia.
England hung on, though, taking the game to a nail-biting penalty shoot-out, with substitute Chloe Kelly – the match winner of Euro 2022 final last year – delivering victory once more with an emphatic strike, giving England a 4-2 win on penalties.
Sarina Wiegman’s team now has just a few days to regroup and prepare for Saturday’s quarter-final – with the squad knowing they are just two games away from reaching their first World Cup final.
But first the Lionesses will have to go through either Colombia or Jamaica – who are playing their round 16 game on Tuesday.
Colombia are odds on favourites to win, having topped Group H with wins over South Korea and Germany, which was enough to see them seal top spot despite losing to Morocco in their final group game.
Meanwhile, Jamaica finished second in Group F, beating Panama and notching up hugely impressive draws with France and Brazil.
The South Americans are ranked 25th in the FIFA World Rankings, while their Caribbean counterparts are 43rd.
Colombia are playing in their third Women’s World Cup having previously featured in the competition in 2011 and 2015.
Jamaica are contesting their second tournament having made their maiden appearance on the global stage four years ago.
The quarter-final between England and their opponent will kick-off on Saturday morning at 11.30am UK time (8.30pm Sydney local time).
Looking further ahead, the Lionesses, if victorious in their quarter-final, could then play a semi-final against either Australia, France or Morocco.
But England will need to do better than their match against Nigeria. Despite winning, the squad came off second best for much of the match, as the African side appeared to dominate.
The Lionesses had few real chances, with striker James showing her frustration in the 87th minute stamping on Nigerian Michelle Alozie in a ‘moment of madness’, which initially earned her a yellow card.