Chloe Kelly, with nerves of steel, sealed the deal for England by confidently netting the decisive penalty kick. Beth England, Rachel Daly, and Alex Greenwood also showcased their composure, converting their penalties to secure a 4-2 shootout triumph for the European champions.
The victory was all the more impressive as England had to overcome the setback of playing with 10 players in extra time due to the expulsion of forward Lauren James, who saw red in the 87th minute following a heated altercation with Michelle Alonzi.
Reflecting on the triumph, Chloe Kelly shared her exhilaration with the BBC, stating, “It’s truly remarkable. No matter the challenges thrown our way, this team consistently demonstrates its incredible potential. We rally together, drawing strength from one another, and wholeheartedly believe in our abilities.”
England’s goalkeeper, Mary Earps, emerged as the hero of the match, standing tall against Nigeria’s early offensive onslaught and making crucial saves throughout the game. Her performance earned her the well-deserved title of Player of the Match.
The path to victory was far from easy for England. They weathered Nigeria’s persistent attacks, with Ashleigh Plumptre’s thunderous strike rattling off the crossbar and a diving save by Earps denying another threatening shot.
Despite the adversity, England’s resilience shone through, exemplified by Rachel Daly’s header off a corner that forced an impressive save from Nigerian goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie.
As the match ventured into extra time, England adopted a defensive stance, holding their ground against Nigeria’s determined efforts. Substitute Asisat Oshoala’s close-range attempt in the waning moments of the game tested Earps once more, but England’s goalkeeper rose to the occasion.
The decisive penalty shootout echoed the team’s earlier success against Brazil in the Finalissima, with Earps expressing the uniqueness of the moment. “I never really practice shootouts, to be honest. It’s a remarkable experience, a pressure-filled crucible,” she shared.
England, on a quest for greatness in their sixth World Cup appearance, have their sights set on surpassing their previous best finish of third place in 2015. The Lionesses’ resilient performance and collective spirit are reminiscent of their triumphs in the Euros and the Finalissima, showcasing their unwavering determination.
The Nigerian Super Falcons, ranked 40th, bid farewell to their ninth World Cup appearance with heads held high, having reached the round of 16 for the second consecutive time.
Awaiting England in the quarterfinals is a clash against either Jamaica or Colombia in Sydney on Saturday. The anticipation is palpable as England’s fourth-ranked team prepares to continue their inspiring journey in the tournament.
Kelly, the hero of the moment, emphasized the team’s exceptional nature, stating, “This team is something special; we’ve proven it in the Euros, in the Finalissima, and once again tonight. Our journey is far from over, and there’s more brilliance to come from this remarkable group.”
When asked about her approach to the pivotal penalty, Kelly’s confidence was unwavering: “My mindset was simple: ‘I’m going to score.’ Once I conquered that mental battle, everything fell into place.”