England wins the Women’s World Cup after Lauren James blows a red flag.
The result was a monument to the tenacity England has developed under Sarina Wiegman’s leadership, but the European champions also depended heavily on chance to defeat Nigeria in the final 16.
The USA, two-time champions and longtime rivals of England, were shocked in a shootout loss to Sweden, which completely upended the Women’s World Cup, twenty-four hours earlier.
The Lionesses were one of the clear favorites to win the championship after that outcome. Few would have therefore anticipated the agonizing experience that would occur in Brisbane against a Nigerian team that had overcome all odds to go to the knockout phase.
By a hair’s breadth, England managed to keep their World Cup ambitions alive by doing what some of their competitors could not—finding a solution, even if it did involve penalties. England came agonizingly close to joining the USA on a flight home, but they managed to hang on by a thread.
Wiegman claims that James was indifferent to the red card.
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Potential route through the knockout rounds for England
With 1-0 victory over Haiti and Denmark to start the tournament, England’s players lived by the maxim “A win is a win” as they advanced through the group stages.
They had underachieved and limped along, failing to make much of an impression on either their rivals or the competition itself.
Until England showed up and destroyed China 6-1 in their final Group D encounter, there were further uncertainties due to an injury to crucial midfielder Keira Walsh. This victory cemented England’s position as the best team in Europe.
As a result of Wiegman’s tactical masterclass, which utilized a rarely used back three to let England to express themselves in a free-flowing and extremely entertaining display, worries about England’s poor start abruptly vanished.
With two goals and three assists, Lauren James stole the show as England’s standing in the competition rose dramatically.
But when they returned six days later for their second appearance in Brisbane, they didn’t replicate their performance from China; instead, they gave the performance we had been accustomed to witnessing in recent months.
In a media briefing, defender Alex Greenwood made it plain that they would disregard any outside noise, since Wiegman had already warned them against becoming complacent.
Nigeria were definitely not going to be an easy opponent as they sought to become the first African team to advance past the group stage of the Women’s World Cup.
The co-hosts Australia were defeated by the nine-time African champions, who also finished ahead of Olympic gold medalists Canada in the group rounds. They came here to kill a giant, and they nearly succeeded.
With each passing minute, England became more and more irritated as they struggled to create chances and felt as though they were constantly doing the same things in vain.
They had previously done it against Haiti and Denmark, but this time it stood out much more due to how much of a performance decline there was from the team that cut apart China.
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Lauren James was dismissed in the 87th minute, and Sarina Wiegman did not make a substitution until that point.
Nine shots were exchanged by halftime, which was a record for England’s first 45 minutes under Wiegman.
Nigeria had tried 405 passes after 120 minutes, which is a record for this year’s tournament, while England had only attempted 12 shots, which is the fewest since they arrived in Australia.
The coach Wiegman, who often has a solution for everything, did not appear to have any ideas to counterbalance Nigeria’s increasing dominance of the game, which was the most surprise part about England’s poor performance.
There was growing frustration, louder drumming from Nigerian supporters in the stands, and more and more audible groans from England supporters behind the goal.
After an hour, Georgia Stanway’s corner floated straight out for a goal kick, summarizing England’s performance, and James was subsequently dismissed due to irrational passion. The Chelsea forward snapped after the most recent time she was ejected, standing on Michelle Alozie’s back.
It was a well-deserved red card, and having to play extra time with a man less made things much harder for England.
At halftime, Sarina Wiegman joins the athletes in celebration.
At the conclusion of the game, Sarina Wiegman erupted in jubilation in the team huddle.
But it was at this point that Wiegman’s England, the true England, appeared.
With the odds stacked against them due to Nigeria’s dominance of the game and a player advantage, England appeared to pick up their game, and Wiegman eventually found a solution.
Alessia Russo, England’s striker, was replaced by Chloe Kelly as part of a lineup change that saw England go back to a back four with one up front.
It succeeded. After Nigeria’s momentum waned, England played unappealing hardball for 30 minutes to force a shootout.
First to strike, Stanway missed wide. With 10 players still on the field, England could not possibly have merely pushed through 30 minutes of extra time.
Nigeria then missed twice. As the remainder of England’s selected penalty takers successfully converted, goalkeeper Mary Earps did not need to make a save.
Wiegman later remarked, “I don’t know what my heart rate is, I just know I’m 10 years older.
I’ve never had so many issues, but of course it’s my responsibility to anticipate problems. You strive to turn every stone and today we got thoroughly tested on those stones!”
Perhaps England needed to be scared after this game. When Spain forced them into extra time in the Euro 2022 quarterfinal after outplaying them for significant stretches, they received one.
It’s not always simple for England, and they might not be as fortunate the next time.
The top teams, according to the notion, find a way to win even when they don’t play well, and they are currently three games away from victory.