World Cup 2023 - Matildas march on as England scrape past Nigeria - Match Day 18
Australia has eased past Denmark on Match Day 18 to march onto the Quarter Finals.
Goals from Caitlin Foord and Hayley Raso helped Australia to the 2-nil win in front of a capacity crowd at Stadium Australia in Sydney. Australia went into the match with an unchanged line-up as coach Tony Gustavsson elected to again start Matilda's captain Sam Kerr on the bench. But it was Denmark who started the busiest as Australia struggled to shake off the pre-game nerves. A cheeky cross-field ball from Denmark's Janni Thomsen made it in behind the Australian defence, but a stretching Rikke Madsen couldn't get it on target.
It took a wayward corner from the Danes to spark an Australians into life as Caitlin Foord linked up with Mary Fowler to manufacture the perfect counter attack. Fowlers beautifully weighted ball allowed Foord to stretch the Danish defence down the left wing before Foord calmly finished underneath Danish keeper, Lene Christensen to see Australia go into the break with the slender advantage.
Denmark again pushed in the second half with star Pernille Harder causing some minor issues for Australia. The Matilda's managed to keep their nerve and looked to be on their way when Hayley Raso scored her third goal of the tournament after some neat build up play by the Australians. Kyra Cooney-Cross managed to link-up nicely with Mary Fowler at the top of the box before finding Emily Van Egmond who unselfishly laid it off to Raso who drilled it into the bottom corner. The 75,000-strong crowd saved one of their biggest roars of the night for the return of Sam Kerr from injury as she managed 15 minutes towards the end of the match.
Australia have now booked a date with either France or Morocco in the Quarter Finals to be played this coming Saturday afternoon.
Earlier, England scraped through to the Quarter Finals by the barest of margins as they beat Nigeria on penalties. Though it was Nigeria who had the better of the starts as they put England under early pressure. Nigeria's Ashleigh Plumtre went close just 16 minutes in, as her first-time hit rattled off the woodwork. England managed to grow into the match as it progressed, but seemingly struggled with the physicality of the Nigerians.
England fans thought they penalty when the referee pointed to the spot following an apparent push on England's Rachel Daly, following a VAR review the decision was overturned. Nigeria went close again, just after half-time when Uchenna Kanu rose above Daly to meet Rasheedat Ajibade's cross, again to be denied by the frame of the goal. England's Lauren James played the villain as she was shown a straight red card on the advice of the VAR following a clear stomp on Nigeria's Michelle Alozie.
With no result to be found, the match ended up progressing to extra-time and penalties. Following an initial stumble by England which saw Georgia Stanaway put her spot-kick wide, it was relatively plain-sailing for England overcome the Super Falcons from the spot to book a place in the Quarter Finals. On Match Day 19, the party atmosphere will arrive in Melbourne as Colombia take on Jamaica followed by France versus African Minnows, Morocco in Adelaide.