England fans were breathing a huge sigh of relief in Brisbane on Monday after their team survived a huge scare against Nigeria in the Round of 16, goalless after ninety minutes and extra time. Penalties ultimately decided the outcome, as the Lionesses booked their place in the quarter-finals of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
England = Outright Favourites
Despite all the drama surrounding their passage to the quarter-finals, according to the latest Women’s World Cup 2023 odds, England are now priced as the 2/1 outright favourites. Nevertheless, the team, coached by Sarina Wiegman, may consider themselves to have been quite lucky, given that Nigeria spurned some great chances, almost causing what might have been one of the biggest upsets of the tournament.
Ranked 40th in the world, the Nigeria side (led by Randy Waldrum) registered eight shots and six on target, as they outplayed England for much of the game. Were it not for the superb form of Manchester United goalkeeper Mary Earps, who is also vice-captain of the national team, the Lionesses might otherwise be packing their bags for home.
Nigeria vs England
Earps was excellent between the posts, making a string of quality saves to keep England in the game, as the Super Falcons crafted numerous dangerous opportunities. Tactically speaking, Nigeria made good use of their high pressing in attack, as England played too deeply and the midfield struggled to retain possession.
When the fleeting chances did come for England, the clearest was comfortably dealt with by the Nigerian goalkeeper, providing increased tension as the clock ticked towards the end of normal time. Indeed, everything could have fallen apart for the Lionesses, following a moment of madness with a poor reaction on the pitch. Although they were reduced to ten players, England somehow managed to hold firm until the final whistle.
Nigeria subsequently dominated in extra time, but whenever they reached the final third and popped off chances on goal, Earps was there to deal with them. Although she has earned the reputation of being a “penalty killer” in shoot-outs, Nigeria was largely unable to test Earps in the decisive showdown. The Lionesses managed to score four and the Super Eagles just two.
Following the game and voted as Player of the Match for her efforts, Earps gave her completely honest reactions to the media. “Nigeria played really, really well and I don’t think we were at our best. We went down to ten and it was a tough, tough game for us, but I’m buzzing we got the job done.”
This test of resolve against Nigeria was important for England, who certainly rode their luck at times during this challenging encounter. But it will also serve as a valuable lesson for the team, given the Lionesses are certainly capable of winning the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Hopefully, the heroics of United’s very own Mary Earps will help them towards that objective.