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Jess Carter puts in great shift as England survive Nigeria, qualify for quartersfinals

England were forced to play a player down but emerged victorious in penalties.

England v Nigeria: Round of 16 - FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Photo by Sajad Imanian/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

England came into this match as clear favourites after winning all three out of their matches during the group stages (one of only three teams at this World Cup to do so, with Japan and Sweden being the other two).

Nigeria’s form coming into this game was not as impressive, however, as soon as the match started it was clear that Nigeria was not going to be scared of the European champions. Despite England having the lion’s share of the possession (especially in the first half), it was Nigeria who looked more dangerous across the match. England eventually won the game thanks to penalties but the Super Falcons will definitely feel hard-done by this result, such was their performance.

This game would have been long over if not for the performance of Chelsea defenders at the back, especially Jessica Carter. The Chelsea defensive duo of Jessica Carter and Millie Bright kept England in the game, time and time again.

The stats say it all. 20 shots for Nigeria as compared to England’s 5, 7 blocked shots as compared to England’s 2 and 17(!) shots inside the box as compared to England’s 9 inside the box. It was the defence that ensured that England even got the chance to reach the penalties.

The peak of Carter-Bright’s defensive display was in the 36th minute as Chelsea’s defensive pairing of Millie Bright and Jessica Carter made multiple blocks to deny Ajibade and Ucheibe clear shot at the goalkeeper. If not for Carter and Bright, that was a certain goal.

Carter also completed the most tackles in the match (3), made 2 blocks and 7 clearances. She also won 4 out of the 5 aerial duels she attempted and created 1 chance as well! Truly an amazing shift!

This match had it all, end-to-end action, lots of chances and plenty of controversy. In the 32nd minute, Rachel Daly appeared to have been pushed by Rasheedat Ajibade and the referee pointed to the spot. As soon as Stanway stepped up to take the penalty, the referee was called over by VAR to check the incident and upon further review, this penalty was overturned.

While it was a soft penalty but VAR is supposed to step in when there is a clear and obvious error by the referee, this penalty was a judgment call and a soft penalty but it was certainly not a clear and obvious error. Weird time for VAR to jump in.

VAR was involved again in the 87th minute, as Lauren James, in a moment of madness, decided to stamp on Michelle Alozie. This was initially marked as a yellow card by the on-field referee but upon VAR’s intervention, it was turned to a red card.

An England No. 7 losing their head in a moment of madness and getting sent off in the Round of 16? Now, where have I seen that before? This red card was definitely justified as few can argue that James let her frustration get the best of her. Hopefully, she learns from this and comes back stronger.

After James’ red card, England dropped to a low block and held on for the remainder of the match, a tactic which definitely considering the final result. Both the teams missed their first penalty (Stanway and Oparanozie) but England scored the next 4 penalties with Beth England, Rachel Daly, Alex Greenwood and Chloe Kelly converting from the spot.

Unfortunately, Nigeria’s amazing performance during the match did not carry into the penalties as they missed 2 out of their 4 penalties with only Ajibade and Ucheibe converting from the spot. Nigeria performed admirably and they deserve all the plaudits that they will get for this performance, unfortunately, sometimes football can be cruel.

For England, they will face the winner of Colombia-Jamaica next and will be missed Lauren James since she will be serving the suspension for today’s red card. A better England has to turn up if they are to make it past either of those teams.

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