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England booked their place in the knockout stages of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, as the Three Lionesses beat Colombia 2-1 in Montreal on Wednesday.
Goals from Karen Carney and Fara Williams gave Mark Sampson’s team a two-goal advantage at the break. England then saw the match out despite a very late consolation strike from Colombia’s Lady Andrade, securing a last-16 clash with Norway in the process.
An emphatic win for France, who beat Mexico by a landslide 5-0 margin, means that England won’t progress as Group F winners. But after losing their opener with such a tepid display, Sampson and his team should be delighted with their response in subsequent matches—both wins—against Mexico and Colombia.
Let’s not forget, England’s opponents in this make-or-break encounter beat France the last time out, showing all the flair and vibrancy you would expect from any Colombia team. But the Three Lionesses were on it from the off in this one.
Colombia found themselves under heavy pressure from the opening whistle, and it was no surprise when England went ahead. Sandra Sepulveda didn’t cover herself in glory when trying to save Steph Houghton’s skidding free-kick, as she spilled it straight into Carney’s path. The English striker then finished clinically from a tight angle to put her side ahead 1-0.
As noted by OptaJoe, the Birmingham City winger is ruthless in front of goal:
Buoyed by that opener, Sampson’s side continued to pour forward in search of a second. Colombia were unable to cope with England’s intensity, as they were tenacious in the tackle and sharp in their passing. A mistake from Colombia defender Carolina Arias, who handballed in her own penalty area, gave Williams the chance to make it 2-0.
The Liverpool midfielder made no mistake from 12 yards, prompting praise from club teammate Gemma Bonner:
After news reached the stadium that France were four goals ahead against Mexico, the match descended into something of a lull with half-time edging nearer. The Colombia supporters, who had packed out the stadium, were silenced for the first time.
Colombia’s inspirational talent, Yoreli Rincon, gave the Three Lionesses a few warning shots before the break, but the England still went in to the break with a 2-0 advantage. Sports journalist Georgina Turner noted that it was a wholly enjoyable first 45 minutes
After a breathless first period, the second half was far more stodgy. But with nothing to lose, Colombia began to play with some renewed impetus, and England started to look more weary as the game rumbled on.
Clear chances were at a premium, though, as noted by Bleacher Report’s Andrew Gibney:
In the main, that was down to a commanding showing from Karen Bardsley in the England goal. While she didn’t have many desperate saves to make, she was authoritative in controlling her penalty area and gobbled up any floated crosses from the Colombian players.
As noted by Everton goalkeeper Del Morgan, it was an improved showing between the sticks from the England ‘keeper:
Colombian hopes dwindled as the final whistle edged closer. Some well-timed substitutions from Sampson helped knock the momentum out of the South American side’s offensive forays, and even though Andrade raced away to bring the game to 2-1 in stoppage time, England’s lead never looked in real danger.
Nonetheless, Ann Odong of the Women’s Game paid tribute to Colombia, who should still qualify as one of the top third-place sides:
Getting into the knockout stages will have been England’s primary aim in this competition, so the players involved in this squad should be mightily pleased with their efforts. Now they’ll go into the last 16 with minimal pressure on them, and Sampson will be hoping the Three Lionesses can play with fearlessness and fluidity.
There were some concerns late in the second period, and Colombia deserve credit for their improved play. But this was England’s best performance of the World Cup so far, and if they continue to improve in matches to come, this team will fancy its chances of sticking around in Canada for a while yet.
With qualification secured for the knockout stages, Sampson paid tribute to the efforts of his players, per Mike Henson of BBC Sport:
Congratulations to the team. It was a game of two halves and we deserved more than what we got. We showed good character and maturity to see the game off in the second half.
Colombia never really got behind us and apart from the goal, we managed them well. Overall another good team performance.