FIFA Women's World Cup 2023: England Win On Penalties


Lauren James shown a red card after stepping on Nigerian player Michelle Alozie.

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By Millie Simon

England were glad to have Keira Walsh back after what looked like a serious injury when she was stretchered off in England’s game against Denmark Friday, 28 July. The injury didn’t seem significant, and Walsh played the full 90 minutes plus some of extra time.

Throughout the entire game, England found it very difficult to manage Nigeria’s man-marking system in the midfield, as Walsh and Lauren James struggled to have substantial time on the ball. England’s passes were often sloppy and inattentive, which were utilised by Nigeria and created some opportunities for them to score. Early on in the first half, Nigerian player Ashleigh Plumptre smashed the ball towards England’s goal but it hit the bar. Seconds later, Plumptre had another attempt on target but this one was saved by goalkeeper Mary Earps.

A chance for England came from a corner kick delivered by Alex Greenwood which ricocheted to Rachel Daly, who sent it straight to the goalkeeper, Chiamaka Nnadozie.

A free kick for England turned into a possible penalty after the referee caught Christy Ucheibe tugging on Daly’s shirt, which seemed to force her to the ground. Just as Georgia Stanway was ready to take the penalty, the referee was called over to the monitor to check whether it really was a penalty. VAR showed it looked more like Daly had backed into Ucheibe, which Daly utilised to take a tumble forward. VAR disallowed the penalty and the game continued.

Chances kept coming for Nigeria, including a threaded ball from Ifeoma Onumonu to Rasheedat Ajibade, which was a significant opportunity for Nigeria to score. However, Jess Carter and Captain Millie Bright blocked the chance.

England’s lack of precision was demonstrated in Nigeria’s final third, as Walsh put a long ball out to Alessia Russo, but it was too powerful for Russo to get to it.

Yet another chance for Nigeria was created in the second half when Ajibade sent the ball to the far post, where Uchenna Kanu delivered a powerful header, but it hit England’s bar.

Around the 83rd minute, a ball to James down the left-hand side was soon dispossessed by Michelle Alozie, and both players fell to the ground. As James got up, she stepped on Alozie’s back and the referee immediately showed James a yellow card. The referee was then called over to the monitor and rescinded James’ yellow card to show her a red card, and James was forced to leave the pitch.

James will definitely miss the next match and, pending FIFA’s decision, could miss the remainder of the tournament if England makes it all the way to the final.

England continued the game with ten players.

A number of substitutions took place as normal time drew to a close; Alessia Russo was subbed for Chloe Kelly, and in extra time, Lauren Hemp was subbed for Bethany England and Keira Walsh for Katie Zelem, who is a designated penalty-taker for her club, Manchester United.

Extra time finished with neither team scoring, so England and Nigeria prepared for penalty shoot-outs.

The first penalty was taken by Stanway but was put wide of the post. Nigeria’s Desire Oparanozie, who was subbed on specifically to take a penalty, also missed. England’s second penalty was taken by Bethany England, and she scored by sending the ball straight down the middle. Alozie was called up to take Nigeria’s second penalty, but it went over the bar. Daly smashed the ball into the top left corner, making the score 2-0 to England. Ajibade’s penalty sent Earps the correct way, but it edged past England’s goalkeeper, scoring Nigeria’s first penalty in this game. Alex Greenwood’s penalty sent Nnadozie the wrong way. Another penalty from Nigeria was effortlessly put in England’s goal, which left Earps rooted to her spot.

England’s European Championship star, Chloe Kelly, smashed the back into the top left corner at a speed of 111km/h, which sent England into the quarter-finals with a finishing score of 4-2.