BRISBANE, Australia (AFP) — England scraped into the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup as it beat Nigeria, 4-2, on penalties in Brisbane on Monday.
Despite Nigeria having the better of the chances, the European champions
— reduced to 10 players after 87 minutes — snuck home in front of 50,000 spectators after the match had finished 0-0 at the end of extra time.
England held on after playmaker Lauren James received a red card for a needless stamp and will know they have to improve if they want to add the World Cup to their European crown.
They will face Colombia or Jamaica on Saturday for a place in the semifinals.
England got off to a terrible start in the penalty shootout when Georgia Stanway fired wide, but Desire Oparanozie couldn’t take advantage and missed with an almost identical effort.
Beth England made no mistake, but Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie shot way over top to give England an advantage they never surrendered, sealing the win when Chloe Kelly calmly converted.
“The first thing is we really stuck together as a team,” England coach Sarina Wiegman said.
“It was a very, very hard game, then we had a red card but we made it through extra-time and then won on penalties.”
“How we did that, and how the team just kept going, I’m so proud of them.”
“It says so much about this team. Not one game has been easy and we knew and knew before this game it would not be easy.”
The Lionesses, who last year won the European Championship at a packed Wembley Stadium in London, were expected to win comfortably against the world’s 40th ranked team.
The Nigerians, however, have shown in this World Cup that they have the game to challenge anybody.
They stunned hosts Australia in the group stage, taking advantage of their speed in the transition to score a 3-2 win.
And they employed the same tactics against England, whose back three were regularly exposed by the Nigerian attack.
“They’re very organized, very transitional, very physical and that’s exactly what we saw,” Wiegman of Nigeria said.
“But we made it through and I’m really happy.”
Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum was proud of his side.
“To come in here and play the way they did tonight, I thought we were every bit as good (as England),” he said.