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England beat Denmark to stand on the brink of Women’s World Cup last 16

Women's World Cup last 16
Lauren James of England celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal in the 1-0 win over Denmark. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Sydney, July 28: European champions England secured a crucial 1-0 victory over Denmark in Sydney, putting them on the brink of qualifying for the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup. The winning goal came early in the sixth minute, courtesy of a sensational strike by Lauren James.
The match was played in front of a crowd of just over 40,000 spectators in Sydney, and it was an overall satisfactory performance for the English team. However, the victory was overshadowed by a potentially serious knee injury suffered by influential midfielder Keira Walsh during the game.
Despite the injury setback, England is in a promising position to advance to the knockout rounds. They will secure their place in the last 16 if China, the Asian champions, fail to defeat debutants Haiti later on the same day.
Denmark, despite having a small share of possession throughout much of the game, almost managed to salvage a point in the dying minutes of normal time. Amalie Vangsgaard’s header narrowly missed the England post, providing a late scare for the English team.
James, the 21-year-old forward from Chelsea, was the standout performer in the first half, although her impact diminished as the match progressed into the second half. The victory was a crucial step for England in their quest to progress further in the Women’s World Cup.
“It’s an amazing feeling and something I always dreamed of,” she said.
“We built on the momentum from the last win and took it into this game.
“Another difficult win but we got the win and that is the most important thing.”
James needed just six minutes to justify her inclusion, drifting off the left into the middle, skipping past a weak challenge and bending the ball with her right foot into the bottom corner from outside the box.
James, sister of Chelsea’s England men’s international Reece James, was everywhere.
Twice in a minute she threatened another as England — wearing black armbands in memory of former international Trevor Francis, who died this week aged 69 — went in search of a second.
Yet for all that, Denmark nearly equalised with their first chance on 24 minutes when Rikke Madsen took the ball inside the area on the turn and flashed just wide of the far post.
The Danes, ranked 13 in the world to England’s four, were a threat on the break.
Skipper Pernille Harder shot straight at goalkeeper Mary Earps as Denmark carved out three decent looks at goal within a few minutes.
A night that had been going so well for the Lionesses then suffered a significant setback when Walsh, a key cog in the team that won the Euro last year, tumbled over and appeared to badly hurt her knee.
She was stretchered off in tears and replaced by Laura Coombs seven minutes before half-time, a question mark now hanging over the rest of the Barcelona player’s World Cup.
England were already missing captain Leah Williamson and Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner Beth Mead, both ruled out before the tournament with knee injuries.
The second half was more of the same: England with most of the chances and possession, but Denmark looking to hit on the break.
That is what they did when Vangsgaard darted into the six-yard box, her header centimetres from snatching a point.
Denmark coach Lars Sondergaard said Walsh’s injury helped his side get a foothold in the match and felt they should have been level at the break.
“I feel a bit sorry for England losing Keira Walsh. I hope it is not as bad as it looked,” he said.
“That could also be one reason we came back into the game.
“If we had been good enough, precise enough, we could have punished them before half-time on the counter.”
Nigeria fight back to stun World Cup co-hosts Australia 3-2
Second-half goals from Osinachi Ohale and Asisat Oshoala gave Nigeria a stunning 3-2 win over Australia at the Women’s World Cup on Thursday to leave the co-hosts in danger of an early exit.
In front of 49,156 fans in Brisbane the Matildas missed a golden chance to reach the last 16 and instead now face a must-win final group game against Canada.
In contrast, Nigeria top Group B and play Ireland — who are already out of contention — with the knockout rounds in sight.
Captain Steph Catley felt that the Australians — who actually took the lead and dominated in the first half — had enough chances to win the game.
But she conceded: “They were great on the counter and they finished their chances. We’ve just got think to Canada now.
“A lot of things (went wrong). We weren’t patient enough at times and we weren’t clinical enough,” she told Optus Sport.
“We had a lot of set-pieces tonight that usually maybe one or two go in.
“We’ve just got to move on as quick as possible because this is what World Cups are about.
“Our backs are up against the wall now, and it’s not how we would have liked it, but nothing good comes easy.”
A Nigeria win seemed improbable after a first period which Australia dominated, although they struggled to break down the Super Falcons’ defence.
Nigeria frustrated Olympic champions Canada in their opening 0-0 draw and did the same to the Matildas, who lacked the penetration that the injured duo of Sam Kerr and Mary Fowler would have given them.
Australia finally got reward for their dominance in the first minute of stoppage time when a poor goal kick from Nigerian keeper Chiamaka Nnadozie was picked off and Caitlin Foord’s low cross was met by Emily van Egmond, who calmly slotted the ball into the net.
But any hopes of taking a 1-0 lead into the break were dashed in the last play of the half.
Rasheedat Ajibade cut inside and her shot deflected into the path of Uchenna Kanu, who beat Australian goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold with a prodded finish at the back post.
Ohale put Nigeria in front in the 65th minute when she headed home after Arnold could only parry a shot into her path.
Barcelona’s Oshoala, who came on as a replacement after half-time, then took advantage of a mix-up between Arnold and defender Alanna Kennedy to get between them and fire home from an acute angle.
Australia got one back through Kennedy in the 10th minute of stoppage time but the Nigerians held on for a famous victory.
(ToI With AFP inputs/AFP)

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