The Women’s World Cup quarterfinals began Thursday with Norway and England squaring off in Le Havre. Follow along here for live updates.
Halftime: England in control
England holds a 2-0 lead and is in complete control. The Lionesses are outshooting Norway, 7-3, and have four shots on goal to Norway’s none. Norway hasn’t been unable to create much on the offensive end, outside of a few runs made possible by unforced English errors. The Grasshoppers’ most potent weapon on offense, Caroline Graham Hansen, has been neutralized by multiple English defenders. There’s still another half, but it’s tough to imagine that any of this has gone according to plan for Norway.
40th minute: England scores
Ellen White scored her fifth goal of this World Cup to put England up by two goals. Nikita Parris sent a beautiful cross to White deep in Norway’s end for what may have been her easiest goal of this tournament. With the goal, White passed Kelly Smith as England’s all-time leading scorer at a single World Cup. The goal also moved her into a tie with American Alex Morgan and Australia’s Sam Kerr atop the Golden Boot race.
31st minute: A near miss for Ellen White
Things have settled substantially following the early English goal. Both team’s outside backs have played a prominent role in creating promising chances offensively. The Lionesses are dominating the ball, holding about 60 percent of possession. And Golden Boot candidate Ellen White nearly put England up two goals with a screaming shot off the post.
3rd minute: England scores
The Lionesses wasted no time flexing their offensive muscles. Midfielder Jill Scott deposited a beautiful ball from right defender Lucy Bronze into the back of the net to secure an early lead. Scott’s score was the quickest goal in England’s Women’s World Cup history.
Kickoff: Good news for England
England got good news before kickoff, when two defenders whose statuses were in doubt, Steph Houghton and Millie Bright, were both listed in the starting 11.
Among the luminaries rooting for the Lionesses: Wayne Rooney in Washington, and David Beckham in Le Havre.
What you need to know
When: Thursday, 3 p.m. Eastern.
Where: Stade Oceane, Le Havre.
TV: Fox, Universo.
Streaming: Fox Sports.
It’s been 1,466 days since the English women’s national team turned a second-half deficit into a 2-1 round-of-16 triumph over Norway during the 2015 Women’s World Cup. Thursday, the two will line it up again, this time with a semifinals appearance on the line and perhaps a chance at redemption for Norway.
England is full of confidence after its first four World Cup matches. The Lionesses possess an unblemished 4-0 record, holding Scotland, Argentina, Japan and Cameroon to one goal total.
Confidence, not talent, has sometimes been England’s Achilles’ heel in international competition. But since the hiring of manager Phil Neville early last year, that is no longer the case. Neville implemented a free-flowing offense that emphasizes each player sharing the ball.
The everybody-eats approach has paid dividends, as England outscored opponents 29-1 during World Cup qualifying. The Lionesses won the round-robin SheBelievesCup early this year over the United States, Japan and Brazil, and have an 8-1 goal differential in this tournament.
It may look like all-systems-go for England, but a potential problem lies on the defensive end after team captain Steph Houghton suffered an ankle injury during the Cameroon match last weekend. Houghton’s back-line mate Millie Bright has also been dealing with an unidentified virus.
While both players’ game statuses were in “major doubt,” in the days leading up to the game, according to Neville, Bright and Houghton were both listed in England’s starting 11.
Norway also carries momentum into the quarterfinals. After navigating their way through a challenging group stage, which included a loss against host France, the Grasshoppers upended sixth-ranked Australia on penalty kicks in the round of 16 after a 1-1 draw.
The opportunity to rewrite history and eliminate England will be a nice motivating element, but to reach their fifth World Cup semifinal in eight chances, Norway must play sound defense while also making a concerted effort to muddy up the game.
Norway’s defense has taken a bend-but-don’t-break approach through much of this tournament. Mental lapses have placed an increasing amount of pressure on the team’s back line and goalie, though they’ve stood strong. If they don’t, England will take advantage.
The Norwegians are still without Ada Hegerberg, the world’s best player, who is skipping this event to protest what she believes is unfair treatment of the women’s program by the Norwegian soccer federation.
Players To Watch
Norway’s Caroline Graham Hansen: Graham Hansen’s light has shined the brightest for Norway thus far. After missing the 2015 World Cup while recovering from a serious knee injury, the 24-year old midfielder looks to be in top form, having twice been named the woman of the match through four World Cup games. She’s taken 11 of Norway’s 16 shots on goal, according to the BBC. She’ll have to maintain that level of play if Norway is to advance.
England’s Nikita Parris: Fourteen minutes into England’s opening group-stage match versus Scotland, the 25-year old forward tallied the Lionesses’ first goal of the tournament by placing a nifty penalty kick in the back of the net. Since then, Parris has been held without a goal. But look for the reigning Football Writers’ Association’s Women’s Footballer of the Year to remind the world of her offensive prowess versus Norway.
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