England, down to 10, advances through PKs – Equalizer Soccer

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James Whitehead / SPP

The third day of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup knockout rounds started with England beating Nigeria in a penalty shootout and will finish with host Australia facing off against Denmark.

Couldn’t watch and need to know what the big story is? This is what happened on the third day of the World Cup Round of 16.

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England 0, Nigeria 0 (PK 4-2)

The Big Story: Nigeria looked to make history by winning a knockout round match for the first time in team history but when England went down a player late in the second half they weren’t able to capitalize and the match went to extra time. England made it out of extra time and into penalties with a solitary shot while down a player, but at the same time, they only allowed Nigeria one shot on target which Mary Earps smothered easily. In penalties, a few wide shots by Nigeria allowed England to advance to the quarterfinals.

The Big Moment: Chloe Kelly clinched England’s move forward by absolutely drilling this penalty into the upper 90.

What it means: Keira Walsh returned to England’s starting 11 after being stretchered off in the second group stage match. She wasn’t as effective as in those matches as early in the half the English backline really wanted to funnel all of their forward movement through Walsh, who was getting defended quite well by the Nigerian press.

Nigeria started the match on the front foot, getting nine shots in the first half including one off the woodwork, and causing English goalkeeper Mary Earps to make a quality save. The Nigerian defensive game plan did a good job of disrupting the English build-up. They kept the Lionesses from having any shots until the 23rd minute when a dangerous turnover by Nigeria forced Chiamaka Nnadozie to make a diving save on this Alessia Russo shot.

It looked like Nigeria had conceded a penalty in the 31st minute when there was a push on England’s Rachel Daly by Nigeria’s Rasheedat Ajibade. The referee, Melissa Borjas, immediately whistled for the PK when Daly went down right in front of her. With the ball already on the spot, and Georgia Stanway stepping back to take the shot, Borjas blew the whistle and motioned for an on-field review. Three minutes after the initial foul, Borjas overturned her original call on the field, and Nigeria was out of trouble for the time being.

The second half went back and forth a lot, Nigeria had some chances, but other than another crossbar hit, they weren’t able to put it on frame. England looked dangerous at times. After Mary Earps needed treatment in the 73rd minute, the following five minutes England was on the front foot but Nnadozie kept it scoreless. In the 85th minute, after an original yellow card, England’s Lauren James was sent off after a VAR review showed her step on Houston Dash and Nigeria forward Michelle Alozie. After six minutes of stoppage time, the score remained tied 0-0, and off to extra time they went.

For Nigeria, losing in penalties is an absolutely heartbreaking way to leave the tournament but at the end of the day, they did have 20 shots but only 2 on target for the night. The opportunities were there. This team still made history, and looks like they will continue to improve. If they can get the backing of their federation behind them, there is no limit to their growth.

England will get to continue their tournament run against the winner of Colombia vs. Jamaica but tonight did pose several questions for the squad. Walsh went from injured to a full 120 minutes, it is unclear how much she’ll have in the tank for the quarterfinal match. Lauren James will be suspended for the next match after her red card and have to hope that FIFA does not add any additional suspension.

— Taylor Vincent

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