FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023: Super Falcons out, European Champion through to quarter finals
Nigeria’s defender Michelle Alozie (lower) reacts after being fouled by England’s forward Lauren James [Patrick Hamilton/AFP]
By Ed Emeanua
England’s Lauren James is shown a red card by referee Melissa Borjas [Dan Peled/Reuters]
How they line up
England’s starting XI: Earps (GK), Carter, Bright, Greenwood, Bronze, Stanway, Walsh, Daly, James, Hemp, Russo.
Nigeria’s starting XI:: Nnadozie, Plumptre, Ohale, Onumonu, Payne, Ucheibe, Kanu, Demehin, Ajibade, Ayinde, Alozie
We have arrived at the stadium in high spirits 🎵
— Home of Nigerian Football (@EaglesTrackerNG) August 7, 2023
What a picture. Tremendous meme potential. https://t.co/7nqWeIln9P
— Daley (@DaleyAFC) August 7, 2023
— Daley (@DaleyAFC) August 7, 2023
Super Falcons progress at the ongoing FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup tournament has been halted by European champions, the Lionesses following their 2-4 defeat by England’s Women national side via the penalty shootout rule at the Lang Park Stadium, Brisbane, Australia on Monday.
Nigeria’s sad loss came in their round of 16 game against the English team and now pushes the nine-time African Women’s Nations Cup winners out of the competition, allowing the Lionesses to advance to the quarter finals stage of the competition.
England’s win followed a goalless 90′ and another 30′ round of extra play which failed to produce any goals for both sides, and ultimately leading to the eventual shootout that also led to breaking the duck.
Lauren James, England’s breakout star of the tournament, got the game underway, with England playing from the left half to the right end of the field.
From kickoff, It was the Lionesses on the front foot early on. England won a fifth minute corner kick which was taken by Alex Greenwood, but which saw Nigeria’s goalkeeper, Chiamaka Nnadozie parrying it off to safety.
Nigeria’s goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie saves a ball [Tertius Pickard/AP Photo]
In the 8th minute of the game, Lucy Bronze’s throw-in was redirected by the Super Falcons for a corner kick to England as the Lionesses continued to press their dominance so far. Alex Greenwood’s corner kick play brought out another save from Nigeria’s goalkeeper, Nnadozie, parried it away yet again.
It is obvious this early on that England was finding success using the wings to launch attacks with Lauren Hemp operating from the left, and Bronze, from across the field on the right side, with both players seeing plenty of the ball in the opening exchanges. The Lionesses centre-backs having searched them out each time with long thrusts upfield.
With 10 minutes into the game, Christy Ucheibe’s cross gets pushed behind for Nigeria’s first corner kick of the game by Mary Earps. Nicole Payne takes the corner but England easily clears the effort.
Nigeria’s defender Michelle Alozie heads the ball [Patrick Hamilton/AFP]
Ashleigh Plumptre of Nigeria and Lucy Bronze of England compete for the ball [Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images]
England’s Alessia Russo shoots at goal [Dan Peled/Reuters]
From the 10th minute, the Super Falcons looked good on the transition. Nigeria won another corner in the 13th minute of the game, this time on the left. Alozie’s powerful header from the corner kick is blocked by England’s Alessia Russo.
The Super Falcons almost scores in the 18th minute of the game. Ashleigh Plumptre’s ambitious short down the left crashes against the cross-bar. The ball stays alive for Nigeria and Super Falcons continued to put the Lionesses on the back pedal as Alozie draws out yet another crisp save from Earps.
Earps has kept the Lionesses in the game with her brilliant saves so far. The English are lucky not going behind. Now into the 28th minute as Rachel Daly’s volley from a corner is saved by Nnadozie who blocks the attempt from close range.
Referee Melissa Borjas signals a penalty [Dan Peled/Reuters]
Then, in the 31′, Daly is barged over in the box and England is initially awarded what looks like a soft penalty by the referee for Ucheibe’s shove on the English player in the back off Greenwood’s free kick.
VAR penalty decision [Dan Peled/Reuters]
Lauren James of England controls the ball [Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images]
However, VAR review overturned the referee’s decision after the central referee was summoned to the TV monitor to take a closer look, and after such a lengthy deliberation, the arbiter eventually changes her decision against a penalty kick.
It took some brave defending by England’s pair of Jess Carter and Millie Bright to keep Nigeria at bay in the 37th minute, but the Lionesses are again left on the back foot as Super Falcons regained momentum following the overruled penalty call.
Nnadozie’s clearance from a corner fell kindly for James on the edge of the box in the 39th minute, but her side-footed volley sailed well over the bar.
With 45 +1 minutes gone, England’s midfielders Keira Walsh and Georgia Stanway’s influence on the game continues to grow, and are now purring on the Lionesses’ waves of attack on Nigeria, but Super Falcons’ dynamic backline are just as resolute as ever as they held off the English forays from the channels, to go into half time on a goalless scoreline note.
England’s goalkeeper Mary Earps, top, stretches to save a ball [Tertius Pickard/AP Photo]
England’s forward Alessia Russo heads the ball [Patrick Hamilton/AFP]
Nigeria restarted the game in the second half and in the 47′, Uchenna Kanu’s looping header at the far post crashes against the bar and goes behind. Earps initially appeared to have covered the attempt, but there are now worrying signs emerging for England. They are beginning to concede too much space to Nigeria on the left side of their field to put balls in from there.
In the 51st minute, England’s Millie Bright heads behind from a Rasheedat Ajibade’s cross for another corner to Super Falcons, but England easily deals with it.
Alex Greenwood’s free-kick in the 56th minute located Russo, whose header only goes wide. Set pieces appears to be England’s likely route to breaking down Nigeria’s resolve as Super Eagles are beginning to look vulnerable to Greenwood’s deliveries, as Super Falcons get rattled from set pieces.
Finally, Asisat Oshoala is on for Ifeoma Onumonu as Nigeria shows that they are really keen on going for a win.
On 60′ now. Stanway’s cross found Daly, whose volley goes wide as she made quite a remarkable contact with the ball, but her shot lacked direction.
Now into the 66′ as Lauren Hemp’s effort is blocked for a corner. Russo’s influence on the game has grown in leaps and bounds, having dropped deeper. However, Stanway’s corner kick delivery was rather poor and goes straight out for a Super Falcons’ goal-kick.
By the 72nd minute, Nigeria’s confidence in the game is clearly showing. Just as England have looked undecided at times, Nigeria have played with a remarkable composure. Even at times when Super Falcons are on the retreat, Nigeria have not shown fear or appeared on edge. Their body language and strength off the ball has been sterner stuff and very remarkable.
In the 77th minute of the game, Daly’s header from an England corner looked certain for the net but Nnadozie’s reflex save ensured that scores are still on parity. What a sensational save by the Super Falcon.
England’s Alex Greenwood in action with Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala [Dan Peled/Reuters]
Chloe Kelly of England and Blessing Demehin of Nigeria compete for the ball [Justin Setterfield/Getty Images]
Michelle Alozie of Nigeria reacts while referee Melissa Borjas checks in [Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images]
In the 84th minute, James picks up am initial yellow for her audacious stamp on a downed Alozie’s back, but VAR was quick to call the referee to the monitor for a closer look. The referee returned to change her earlier yellow card to James to a red card. Out goes the England striker.
However, Super Falcons were unable to make their one player advantage count as the scores remained 0-0 after 90 minutes, and following another extra time of 30 minutes play.
In the penalty shootout, while Bethany England, Daly, Greenwood, and Chloe Kelly, were all successful from their spot kick for the Lionesses, only the duo of Rasheedat Ajibade, and Christy Ucheibe, were able to score for Nigeria from their spot kick, with Desire Oparanozie and Michelle Alozie missing their spot kicks.
For England though, only Stanway missed her penalty kick effort for the Lionesses who now goes through to the next rounds of competition after a very gritty round of 16 victory against the Africans.