In a thrilling encounter on Monday Aug 7 2023, England triumphed over Nigeria in the Women’s World Cup round of 16, prevailing in a tense penalty shootout following a goalless 120-minute battle.
Chloe Kelly emerged as the hero for the European champions, confidently slotting in the decisive spot-kick after Beth England, Rachel Daly, and Alex Greenwood had already converted, securing a 4-2 shootout victory. Despite being down to ten players for extra time due to the expulsion of top scorer Lauren James for an ill-tempered incident, England showcased their resilience and teamwork to emerge victorious.
Kelly expressed her elation, stating, “It’s truly incredible. This team always rises to the challenge and demonstrates our capabilities. We unite as a collective and have faith in our skills.”
The match had its contentious moments, with England’s Lauren James being sent off in the 87th minute for an altercation with Michelle Alozie. The teams battled fiercely through extra time, but neither side could break the deadlock, leading to the dramatic penalty shootout.
Nigeria’s Desire Oparanozie and Alozie missed their penalty attempts, setting the stage for Kelly’s winning strike, which she placed beautifully into the top right corner. The Manchester City forward was enveloped by her jubilant teammates as they celebrated the victory.
Reflecting on her approach to the crucial penalty, Kelly revealed, “I approach it with the mindset that I will score. Once I conquer that mental challenge, success follows.”
England, ranked fourth, will now advance to the quarter-finals, where they will face either Jamaica or Colombia in Sydney on Saturday. Unfortunately, Lauren James will be suspended for at least one game due to her red card.
Coach Sarina Wiegman defended James, describing the incident as a split-second lapse in emotion and not intentional harm. Wiegman praised her team’s unity and determination, emphasizing their ability to perform under pressure.
The Lionesses, with an impressive record of being unbeaten in 36 of their last 37 matches, faced intense pressure from Nigeria but managed to secure their place in the next stage. Wiegman humorously remarked, “I feel ten years older after that match. It was a closely contested game. The World Cup is full of surprises and excitement, with unexpected teams emerging victorious.”
England’s goalkeeper Mary Earps, who was named the player of the match, credited the team’s prior experience in shootouts for their composure. She said, “The shootout in the Finalissima earlier this year prepared us well for this intense moment.”
Nigeria displayed a spirited performance, testing England’s defense early on with powerful shots. Despite their efforts, they were unable to break through and were eliminated from their ninth World Cup appearance in the round of 16 for the second consecutive tournament.
England’s sights are set on improving their previous best finish of third place in 2015, as they continue their journey in the Women’s World Cup. Their resilience and determination have propelled them forward, defying the odds and keeping their championship dreams alive.