BRISBANE-- 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. "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." 'Against All Odds' 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 Super Falcons bow out of their ninth World Cup in the last 16 for the second consecutive time.