Watch: How the Lionesses snatched a last-minute victory after holding on during extra time one woman down
England have made it into the quarter finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup after snatching victory in a tense penalty shoot-out against Nigeria.
It was an even more nail-biting 30 minutes of extra time, as the Lionesses went into the period one woman down.
Four minutes before full-time, England’s fortunes took a turn for the worse when Lauren James was sent off with a red card for treading on Michelle Alozie as she lay on the ground.
She was initially awarded a yellow card but then handed a red following a VAR check – walking off without making any complaints as England were left a player down right before extra time.
James is seen as a breakout England talent, a great asset to the team, and – until the 90-minute mark at least – a major threat to Nigeria’s chances of success.
The Chelsea forward, who has previously been described as a “cheat code” for England, will now face a automatic one-match ban – further putting the team at a disadvantage.
However, FIFA officials may decide to impose a three-match ban for violent conduct, meaning she could miss the rest of the tournament.
Commentator Gabby Logan described the incident as James’ “David Beckham moment” – referring to Beckham being sent off in a 1998 game against Argentina.
“Lauren James is probably going to miss the rest of the tournament, she will definitely miss one game, it will go to review, she may well get her ban increased for violent conduct and that will remain to be seen but for England, they have to put that to one side now,” she added.
England managed to hold on for a nail-biting 30 minutes of extra time. A shot by Oshoala about 10 yards out at 116 minutes could have easily sent Nigeria into the quarter finals, but Earps made a save.
In the end, the Lionesses managed to turn it around with Chloe Kelly scoring the winning penalty.
They will go on to play either Colombia or Jamaica on Saturday, 12 August in Sydney, airing on STV, with kick-off set for 11.30am (BST).
England will know which side they are up against after the South American and Caribbean nations play each other tomorrow at 9am UK time.
The Lionesses were praised for keeping their cool after such a challenging period of extra time and a turbulent penalty shootout including missed shots from both sides.
“It just shows their resilience. The pressure moment, Georgia missing that first one but then the team coming together, having that togetherness, and that composure… I’m so proud of them,” former England striker Ellen White remarked.
“When you think about how you go on to win tournaments you need moments of luck, magic… you need it all. It’s about finding a way which they did,” former England and Arsenal defender Alex Scott added.
Following a sketchy performance in the run-up to England’s victory, Kelly promised there was still plenty more to come from the reigning European champions.
“It’s amazing, anything that is thrown at us we show what we are capable of,” she told BBC One.
“We dig deep as a group and we believe in our ability. First and foremost we believe in what we are told to do.
“This team is special: we did it at the Euros, we did it at the Finalissima and we are here again doing it.
We keep pushing forward, there is more to come from this special team.”
Early on in the match, the Lionesses had an early opportunity to secure their lead around the 31 minute mark after a jostle between England’s Rachel Daly and Rasheedat Ajibade during a free kick led to a penalty being awarded.
Daly went down in the box, however the decision to award a penalty was overturned after a VAR review, prompting outrage from fans online.
Nigeria came the closest to scoring, with Ashleigh Plumptre hitting the underside of the crossbar around the quarter-hour mark, but still the match was goalless by half-time.
Both sides had more near misses as the second half progressed, with Daly following on from Alex Greenwood’s corner kick around the 76th minute – jumping for a powerful downwards header which was saved by Chiamaka Nnadozie.
Just a few minutes before, Nigeria’s Toni Payne’s corner was headed wide of the goal by Uchenna Kanu.
The return of Keira Walsh, who was named in the starting 11 today, just 11 days after suffering what was feared to be a serious knee injury – was also expected to bolster England’s chances.
The 2023 Champions League winner with Barcelona was carried off on a stretcher late in the first half of England’s 1-0 victory over Denmark in their second group stage game.
However, the midfielder’s return failed to bring any goals for England before the 90 minute mark.
The 2023 World Cup saw the tournament expand to 32 teams for the first time, with some initially worried that the gap between the top and lower-ranked nations would be detrimental.
Yet the reality has so far been the opposite, with four of FIFA’s top 10 sides already eliminated including double-defending champions USA, who crashed out after losing a dramatic penalty shootout to Sweden.
Number two side and Euro 2022 finalists Germany, number seven Olympic champions Canada, and Copa America winners Brazil, ranked eighth, have all been eliminated.
Those giant-slayings – Canada’s at the hands of 40th-ranked Nigeria – also marked the last likely World Cup appearances for icons and pioneers in Brazil’s Marta, Canada’s Christine Sinclair and the USA’s Megan Rapinoe, who missed a penalty against Sweden and announced pre-tournament that she would be retiring at the end of the 2023 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season.
Wiegman added: “It is very, very competitive. The development of the game all over the world has gone really quickly, at a very good level.
“But I’m mainly focused on my team and on the next match with my team, so I’m not into every game. I don’t have the full context, but that’s the main thing I have noticed.”