The 2023 Women’s World Cup is in full swing, and these daily files give you the latest reporting from around the tournament as well as betting lines, what-to-watch-for information and best reads. Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Australia and New Zealand.
The lead: England hold nerve to beat Nigeria on penalties
BRISBANE, Australia — England needed penalties to see off Nigeria and reach the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup, but had to do it with 10 players after Lauren James was issued a straight red card for stamping on an opponent in the final minutes of normal time.
England went through 4-2 in the shootout after Nigeria missed the target on their first two penalties, giving Chloe Kelly — the hero of the Euros — the chance to put the Lionesses through. It saved England’s World Cup campaign after a match in which they were second best for much of it.
Nigeria were the far more dangerous side heading forward. Nigeria hit the bar once in each half, while England could only muster a series of half-chances. England thought they had a penalty in the first half, but having awarded the Lionesses a spot kick for a push on Rachel Daly, the referee then overturned the call after a VAR review.
But the flashpoint of the match came in the 87th minute, when James was sent off for a stamp on Michelle Alozie. Again, the referee consulted the VAR after initially showing a yellow card, but then upgraded it to a straight red, meaning James will miss the quarterfinal and, depending on the result of a FIFA disciplinary review, possibly the rest of the tournament, even if England reach the final.
Nigeria were again on the front foot in extra time, but it was the Lionesses who got through on penalties. Georgia Stanway blazed her first one wide, but substitute Beth England, Alex Greenwood, Daly and Kelly scored theirs to put England through. — Tom Hamilton
News of the day
United States women’s national team defender Julie Ertz announced her retirement from international soccer following Sunday’s heartbreaking defeat to Sweden in the Women’s World Cup round of 16. Ertz was part of a USWNT defense that recorded its third shutout of the tournament, and while the Americans dominated the 0-0 match for long stretches, they fell 5-4 on penalties, marking their earliest exit from a Women’s World Cup in the team’s history.
As for the future of USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski? He pushed back on questions about his job safety after Sunday’s loss, saying: “I think it’s selfish to think about me, my future, what I’m gonna do, when we have 20-year-old players going through the moment, going through this situation.” On Monday, the U.S. Soccer Federation said: “We will conduct a review to identify areas of improvement and determine our next steps.”
Today in USWNT camp
Krieger praises ‘incredible’ Megan Rapinoe as her USWNT career ends
Ali Krieger discusses the impact of Megan Rapinoe on women’s soccer after the USWNT’s elimination from the World Cup marked the end of her playing career.
The time for pointing fingers and placing blame will come soon enough. It has to with the Olympics coming in less than one year. The process, of course, starts with looking at the 120 minutes against Sweden in which the USWNT couldn’t find a goal, at a World Cup in which the Americans entered as favorites but could never click into gear …
The lessons from this disappointment will be difficult to process. Throughout the tournament, the players were asked how they could improve their finishing, and there was never a satisfying and concrete answer.
Either way, the World Cup moves on without the USWNT.
ESPN’s Caitlin Murray on the USWNT’s shocking loss to Sweden and early World Cup exit.
Sights and sounds
‘Proud’ Nigeria coach wants to stay in job
BRISBANE, Australia — Amid pride and sadness at seeing his side exit the World Cup on penalties to England, there was also fire there in the way Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum evaluated their impressive tournament and the opportunities ahead.
Waldrum’s contract expires after this World Cup, but after a campaign in which they’ve effectively gone undefeated and have beaten the reigning Olympic champions and held the European champions to a goalless draw after extra time, he sees potential.
“I’m so proud of them — there’s such a bright future for this group,” Waldrum said. “The players came together in an unbelievable way in this tournament and I’m so proud of each and every one of them. We showed we can be one of the top teams in the world — we showed we’re capable of playing with anybody.”
Nigeria’s players came into the tournament off the back of bonus disputes with their federation, and their coach was heavily criticised by his employers for siding with his players. He now hopes the players will be paid what they are owed.
“Moving forward we want to build and not take a step back and become inactive again,” Waldrum said. “It’s a great opportunity to build on this success and move forward so hopefully there won’t be an opportunity wasted there — I think the federation are happy with how we performed and look forward to moving forward and continue on.”
Once the disappointment subsides, Nigeria have a huge amount to be proud of. They held Canada to a 0-0 draw, defeated co-hosts Australia 3-2, drew with the Republic of Ireland and pushed England to penalties. They’ve had a series of wondrous performances from players such as goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie and defender Ashleigh Plumptre, and while Asisat Oshoala was struggling for fitness throughout the tournament, her winning goal against Australia will live long in the memory. That’s why Waldrum wants to stay.
“There’s a big opportunity to take this team further, with the Olympics next year,” he said. “I would love to do that, but those decisions are for someone else.” — Tom Hamilton
Italy boss says ‘ciao‘ after exit
MELBOURNE — After a second successive disappointing tournament, Italy coach Milena Bertolini announced she is stepping down from her role. She made the announcement in a post on Instagram, the platform recently favoured by the players who collectively put out a statement after they bowed out to South Africa last week citing how they were not put in a position to succeed.
In her statement, Bertolini said: “It is not always possible to achieve positive results, but I have no doubts about everyone’s commitment and good intentions.” But her exit follows over a year of underwhelming football from Le Azzure, with the squad regressing under the coach who had evolved the style when she first took over in 2017.
Remembered for the sumptuous football from 2019, the wheels had been wobbling on the Italy bus for some time and the team fell to pieces in a 5-0 loss to Sweden in their second group game, crumbling under a string of set pieces from the Scandinavians. Despite leading against South Africa, Italy were overwhelmed at the back by Banyana Banyana, fast running out of ideas in both boxes in a 3-2 defeat.
Off the back of Italy’s group-stage elimination, Bertolini’s position seemed untenable and her subsequent resignation shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it does raise the question of which other coaches may be looking for a job by the end of the month. — Sophie Lawson
No getting past the Reggae Girlz
MELBOURNE — After Switzerland and Japan both conceded in their round-of-16 matches, just a single side at this World Cup have yet to have their notebook blemished: Jamaica. It’s an impressive detail of their run to the knockout phase and a remarkable achievement in and of itself from the Reggae Girlz, but even more so with a broader context.
In 2019, Jamaica conceded 12 goals across three straight defeats in their first tournament. During the 2022 Concacaf W Championship, which doubled as World Cup qualification, they lost 5-0 to the United States in the group stage and 3-0 to Canada in the semifinals. And with France and Brazil awaiting them in the group stage in Australia, there was little expectation that Lorne Donaldson’s side would provide much resistance, especially when their long-standing battle for resourcing significantly disrupted their preparation.
“Our defending was something of a concern for us,” said Donaldson. “We had really no games coming into the World Cup but we did a camp in Jamaica and the emphasis of the camp … that 10-day camp was very important because the main emphasis was, can we buy into defending?
“Right there and then we saw something. The girls have bought into it. And look what happened when people put their trust in something and they work hard and they believe they can do it.”
Setting up in a stout defensive block, Jamaica saw very little of the ball against France and Brazil but consistently repulsed their higher-ranked foes, with wing-back Deneisha Blackwood observing that the team was taking joy from doing the dirty work down back.
“The mentality that we had in the Jamaica camp was we have to start defending as a team and not just a back four and goalkeeper,” she said. “When me or one of my other teammates makes a tackle it’s a boost for us just as much as if Bunny [Khadija Shaw] scores a goal or Jody [Brown] scores a goal.” — Joey Lynch
Match previews for Tuesday
Colombia vs. Jamaica – (Hindmarsh, Adelaide; 8.30 p.m. local / 4 a.m. ET / 9 a.m. UK)
MELBOURNE — It was contrasting performances from Jamaica and Colombia int their last group games; the Reggae Girlz once again dug in and refused to give up a goal, as Colombia failed to get out of first gear against Morocco having already confirmed their progression at the tournament.
But it raises the question of which these two teams can take things up a level. Can Colombia front line can click back into shape and impress as they did against Germany — Linda Caicedo‘s individual brilliance and the smart link-up play between Catalina Usme and Mayra Ramirez — or if they’ll come unstuck as so many others have against the Caribbean side?
For Jamaica, there’s the worry that they just haven’t produced going forward, surrendering too much in attack to impress as they have in defence (with three clean sheets in three matches). There’s no hiding from the fact that their goal return has been underwhelming.
As Lorne Donaldson said the day before the game, “The lack of goals, I say it now and before, we have to try and score goals to win this game, because somebody will be knocked out. So, we will put our best foot forward and hopefully get something going on here, with goals.”
In a match that is expected to be attack vs. defence, can Jamaica follow England’s lead and hold their opponents at bay before triumphing in a penalty shootout? Or will Colombia rediscover their attacking verve to march into the quarterfinals? — Sophie Lawson
France vs. Morocco – (Melbourne Rectangular; 6 p.m. local / 7 a.m. ET / 12 p.m. UK)
ADELAIDE, Australia — Sakina Karchaoui has two passports: a French one, for the country where she was born and where she lives works, and one for Morocco, where her parents where born and where she used to spend all her summers. She has uncles, aunties and grandparents who still live in the North African country.
Like many families with members on each side of the Mediterranean, the Karchaouis will be torn on Tuesday between supporting Les Bleues or the Lionesses of the Atlas. This is more than just a football game in a match in the World Cup round of 16. This is a match between two countries which have been entwined for years. Morocco was a French protectorate between 1912 and 1956. The links — economic, social, political, industrial and immigration — are even more important. As we saw when the two men’s teams faced each other in the 2022 World Cup semifinal, there will be a special atmosphere.
France are favourites, and are the better side, but we have seen so many upsets that you can’t rule out Morocco. The AFCON finalists defend well, play as a team and are very resilient. The French have flair in midfield with Grace Geyoro and talent up front with Eugenie Le Sommer and Kadidiatou Diani that should see them prevail.
This is also a battle between French managers with Moroccan connections. Herve Renard will be on the Blue bench, having spent three years on the Red one as head coach of the men’s team (2016-2019). Former France international Reynald Pedros will be in the Red corner after successfully managing Lyon for two years (2017-2019). There will be no secrets between the two teams and between the two countries. — Julien Laurens
Features of the day
Race for the Golden Boot: Who’ll be Women’s World Cup top goal scorer?
Two players led the race for the Golden Boot heading into the knockout phase, but there are plenty more still in contention.
And, finally …
ADELAIDE, Australia — Esmee Brugts‘ rocket strike for Netherlands in their 7-0 group-stage win over Vietnam was clocked at 104.46 kilometres per hour (64.9 mph), the fastest the ball has travelled for a goal at this World Cup.
Brugts, one of the revelations of the tournament, hit a magnificent curler from the edge of the box into the far top corner as the Dutch qualified for the knockout phase in style on Aug. 1. Just behind her, with a shot clocked at 102.60 kmh (63.75 mph) is England’s Georgia Stanway with her penalty against Haiti.
The goal where the ball travelled the most belongs to Laia Codina, the Spain defender who scored a memorable own goal in her side’s victory against Switzerland on Saturday, beating her own goalkeeper from 46.34 metres (50.67 yards) out. Codina is way ahead of Lea Le Garrec, the France midfielder whose cross-turned-shot was measured at 38.95m (42.59 yards) away from the Panama goal last week. — Julien Laurens