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2023 Women's World Cup

Round of 16, Day 3: England, down to 10, advances through PKs, Australia paves its path to the quarters

James Whitehead / SPP

The third day of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup knockout rounds started with England beating Nigeria in a penalty shootout and finished with Australia delivering a convincing defeat to Denmark.

Couldn’t watch and need to know what the big story is? This is what happened on the third day of the World Cup Round of 16.

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England 0, Nigeria 0 (PK 4-2)

The Big Story: Nigeria looked to make history by winning a knockout round match for the first time in team history but when England went down a player late in the second half they weren’t able to capitalize and the match went to extra time. England made it out of extra time and into penalties with a solitary shot while down a player, but at the same time, they only allowed Nigeria one shot on target which Mary Earps smothered easily. In penalties, a few wide shots by Nigeria allowed England to advance to the quarterfinals.

The Big Moment: Chloe Kelly clinched England’s move forward by absolutely drilling this penalty into the upper 90.

What it means: Keira Walsh returned to England’s starting 11 after being stretchered off in the second group stage match. She wasn’t as effective as in those matches as early in the half the English backline really wanted to funnel all of their forward movement through Walsh, who was getting defended quite well by the Nigerian press.

Nigeria started the match on the front foot, getting nine shots in the first half including one off the woodwork, and causing English goalkeeper Mary Earps to make a quality save. The Nigerian defensive game plan did a good job of disrupting the English build-up. They kept the Lionesses from having any shots until the 23rd minute when a dangerous turnover by Nigeria forced Chiamaka Nnadozie to make a diving save on this Alessia Russo shot.

It looked like Nigeria had conceded a penalty in the 31st minute when there was a push on England’s Rachel Daly by Nigeria’s Rasheedat Ajibade. The referee, Melissa Borjas, immediately whistled for the PK when Daly went down right in front of her. With the ball already on the spot, and Georgia Stanway stepping back to take the shot, Borjas blew the whistle and motioned for an on-field review. Three minutes after the initial foul, Borjas overturned her original call on the field, and Nigeria was out of trouble for the time.

The second half went back and forth a lot, Nigeria had some chances, but other than another crossbar hit, weren’t able to put it on frame. England looked dangerous at times. After Mary Earps needed treatment in the 73rd minute, the following five minutes England was on the front foot but Nnadozie kept it scoreless. In the 85th minute, after an original yellow card, England’s Lauren James was sent off after a VAR review showed her step on Houston Dash and Nigeria forward Michelle Alozie. After six minutes of stoppage time, the score remained tied 0-0, and off to extra time they went.

For Nigeria, losing in penalties is an absolutely heartbreaking way to leave the tournament but at the end of the day, they did have 20 shots but only 2 on target for the night. The opportunities were there. This team still made history, and looks like they will continue to improve. If they can get the backing of their federation behind them, there is no limit to their growth.

England will get to continue their tournament run against the winner of Colombia vs. Jamaica but tonight did pose several questions for the squad. Walsh went from injured to a full 120 minutes, it is unclear how much she’ll have in the tank for the quarterfinal match. Lauren James will be suspended for the next match after her red card and have to hope that FIFA doesn’t add any additional suspension.

— Taylor Vincent

Australia 2, Denmark 0

The Big Story: Though the game started somewhat slowly, two clean and collaborative goals from Australia and a lack of threatening offense from Denmark resulted in a 2-0 victory for the home team. A much-anticipated appearance from star Australian striker Sam Kerr in the 80th minute also helped electrify the crowd, which will now cheer on the Matildas as they move to the quarterfinals.

The Big Moment: The first half of the first half of Monday’s match featured even play from both sides. In the 29th minute, however, forward Caitlin Foord sent the ball through the legs of Danish keeper Lene Christensen and found the back of the net, making the score 1-0. This goal was not only a confidence boost for the home team, but was also a bad omen for Denmark – the Red and White have never won a game in the 11 World Cup scenarios in which they have conceded the first goal.

What it Means: Australia has proved, once again, that it is a true contender in the 2023 World Cup. And although they would prefer not to, the Matildas are demonstrating that they can win without Kerr.  

The 2023 World Cup has been an exciting and suspenseful tournament for Australia so far. After looking elimination in the eye in the group stage, the Matildas proved their ability to rise to the moment with a victory over reigning Olympic champions Canada, which advanced Australia to the knockout round. Monday’s defeat of Denmark – a decently disciplined and efficient team coached in classic European fashion – demonstrated once again that the Matildas are motivated, not intimidated, by legitimate competition. 

The Matildas’ successes have certainly been buoyed by being the home team – it does no harm to have thousands cheering your names – but the true source of their triumphs so far is the teamwork that they employ in each match. Their second goal of the evening in the 70th minute was a true example of this team effort that they have put forward. When Mary Fowler’s initial shot on Christensen was blocked and redirected to the foot of Emily van Egmond, van Egmond redirected the ball to teammate Hayley Raso, who shot a rocket into the net, doubling Australia’s lead to 2-0. The collaborative forward movements and goals that the Matildas are able to produce almost make you forget that their star striker sits on the bench. 

Of course, an appearance from Sam Kerr in the 80th minute – her first of the tournament – was not only welcomed, but celebrated. And if Monday’s match is any indication, fans can hope to see her for longer as Australia takes on either France or Morocco in the quarterfinals. Kerr will no doubt make a difference when she gets more time on the field, but the Matildas know by now not to tremble if they have to take on tough competition without her.

— Julie Schreiber

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