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Rediff.com  » Sports » Women's World Cup: Australia down Danes; England edge Nigeria

Women's World Cup: Australia down Danes; England edge Nigeria

Last updated on: August 07, 2023 18:44 IST
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IMAGE: Caitlin Foord scores Australia's first goal against Denmark during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Round of 16 match in Sydney on Monday. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Co-hosts Australia welcomed captain Sam Kerr to the fray for the first time in the tournament as they beat Denmark 2-0 to reach the quarter-finals of the Women's World Cup at Stadium Australia on Monday.

 

Forwards Caitlin Foord and Hayley Raso scored the goals either side of halftime before Kerr, who has been absent with a calf injury, came on as a 78th-minute substitute to the biggest roar of the night from the crowd of 75,784.

Denmark dominated the early exchanges with Pernille Harder looking particularly dangerous but faded as the game went on with their first World Cup campaign since 2007 destined to end in the last 16.

Australia, who have reached the last eight at three previous World Cups but never gone further, move on to meet either France or Morocco in Brisbane on Saturday with a place in the semi-finals on the line.

"We were under a lot of pressure that first half but we didn't get rattled," said Australia coach Tony Gustavsson.

"The team is very mature playing tournament football and can find a way to get it done."

IMAGE: Australia's players celebrate after Hayley Raso scored the second goal against Denmark. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

The Danes looked far the better side in the first 20 minutes with their press disrupting Australia's attempts to build any fluency and Harder roaming up front probing for gaps in the home defence.

The Matildas forwards were being crowded out when they did make inroads into the Danish half and it was when their midfielders pushed forward from deeper positions that they looked most dangerous.

Fowler took the ball in such a position in the 29th minute and produced a stunning pass that carved through the Danish defence and found Foord streaking down the left channel.

Foord's touch took the ball to the edge of the six-yard box, where she slid it between the legs of Denmark goalkeeper Lene Christensen for her first goal of the tournament.

The pace of Foord down the left wing continued to cause problems for Denmark after the break and Emily van Egmond nearly turned her drilled pass across goal into the net in the 65th minute.

A huge roar went up four minutes later when Kerr was shown on the big screen putting on a match shirt but Australia had doubled their lead before she came on.

A Fowler pass into the box found Van Egmond with her back to goal and the midfielder controlled the ball well before sliding it out to Raso, who lashed it into the net from an angle.

Kerr's first touch was a wild crossfield pass to no-one but she was soon bursting into the box with the ball at her feet to fire a shot over the bar.

"It's massive for us to have a player like that back, it boosts our confidence," said Foord, who was named Player of the Match.

"We know we need to take it up another level if we're going to go all the way."

Nigeria

IMAGE: England's Rachel Daly heads at goal. Photograph: Dan Peled/Reuters

England dumped Nigeria out of the Women's World Cup in a last-16 penalty shootout on Monday with Chloe Kelly scoring the decisive spot-kick, following a 0-0 draw over 120 nerve-jangling minutes.

Beth England, Rachel Daly and Alex Greenwood also converted in a 4-2 shootout win for the European champions, who had a player sent off in regulation time.

"It's amazing. Anything that's thrown at this team, we show what we're capable of," Kelly told the BBC. "We dig deep as a group and we believe in our ability."

England played with 10 women through extra time after forward Lauren James, their top scorer with three goals in the group stage, was sent off in the 87th minute for an ill-tempered stamp on the back of Michelle Alozie after the two went down in a tangled heap.

England

IMAGE: England's players react during the penalty shootout. Photograph: Dan Peled/Reuters

"This team is special, we did it in the Euros, we did it in the Finalissima (a shootout win against Brazil), and we're here again tonight and doing it," added Kelly, who scored the winner in the Euro 2022 final against Germany. "And we keep pushing forward. There's more to come from this special team."

Misses by Nigeria's Desire Oparanozie and Alozie set up Kelly for the winner, and the Manchester City forward scored with a shot to the top right corner before being swarmed by team mates.

On her approach, she said: "It's 'I'm going to score'. That's how I look at it. Once I win that mental battle, we're good."

Fourth-ranked England face either Jamaica or Colombia in the quarter-finals in Sydney on Saturday. James will receive at least a one-game suspension.

Coach Sarina Wiegman said the 21-year-old James lost her emotion in "a split second ... it's not something she really did on purpose. She doesn't want to hurt anyone."

The Lionesses, who are unbeaten in 36 of their last 37 games, looked at times under Nigeria's intense pressure like they might become the latest top-10 casualty in a World Cup of terrific parity.

"I just know I'm 10 years older," Wiegman joked. "I think the game was very equal. Nothing is easy in this tournament and that's very exciting ... it's not the expected teams that have won all the time."

England keeper Mary Earps, named player of the match, said the Finalissima shootout in April was a terrific warmup for Monday's drama in front of 49,461 fans at Lang Park.

"I don't even practice a shootout to be honest," Earps said. "It's a very special moment, a very special pressure-cooker."

England

IMAGE: England's Rachel Daly and teammates celebrate during the penalty shootout. Photograph: Dan Peled/Reuters

Nigeria forced the Manchester United keeper to work early and Earps stood tall with a couple of great saves.

Ashleigh Plumptre launched a rocket from 25 yards out that rang off the underside of the crossbar, then moments later forced Earps to make a diving save with a shot from the centre of the box.

"You dream of playing in a World Cup when you're a kid," Earps said. "And it was the old cliche, but it's just so true. The odds were against us tonight.

"But I think the players deserve tremendous credit. The team came together fantastically against all odds to really grind it out against a very tough Nigeria, who were brilliant, relentless."

England were awarded a penalty when Daly was pushed from behind in the box by Rasheedat Ajibade, but it was overturned after a VAR review.

Later in the second half, Daly had a terrific chance with a header off Greenwood's corner that forced goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie to get down quickly and save.

England sat back in their own half for most of extra time, and substitute Asisat Oshoala fired a close-range shot minutes before the final whistle that Earps dove to scoop up.

England are making their sixth World Cup appearance and have their sights set on beating their best finish of third in 2015. They were fourth four years ago in France.

The 40th-ranked Golden Falcons bow out of their ninth World Cup in the last 16 for the second consecutive time.

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