England now have a clear picture of their potential route to the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup final as the knockout stages begin.
And their path to glory is looking a lot smoother following a number of shock results in the group stages.
The Lionesses were heavily tipped to go all the way ahead of the tournament, but their stock diminished in value after their laboured to one goal wins over Haiti and Denmark.
The European champions reminded everyone of their prowess with a 6-1 win over China to top Group D, thanks in large part to head coach Sarina Wiegmann’s tactical changes. She switched to a back three and gave Lauren James a more central role behind the strikers, with the Chelsea forward and sister of full-back Reece registering a brace, as well as a hat-trick of assists.
They will be further buoyed heading in to the last-16 of the competition knowing that some of the highest-ranked nations on their side of the draw have already been eliminated.
Germany’s elimination at the hands of Korea Republic will go down as one of the biggest shocks ever, with Colombia and Morocco heading through instead. The Germans narrowly lost the Euro 2022 final to England with star striker Alexandra Popp injured for the decider. They were among the favourites to lift the Women’s World Cup for a third time.
Brazil were also considered one of the challengers for the trophy, but were denied a spot in the knockout rounds by Jamaica, with whom they drew 0-0.
Meanwhile, Olympic champions Canada were also sent packing in the group stages after failing to impress. It was expected that they would face England in the round-of-16, but Nigeria qualified as the second-best team in Group A.
It means that England avoid Canada, who are ranked sixth in the world by Fifa, in the next round, where they will face Nigeria, who are ranked 39th.
In the quarter-finals, England would have been expected to face one of either Brazil or Germany. Now, should they beat Nigeria, they will face either Colombia or Jamaica.
While victory over those opponents should not be taken for granted, it is a far more preferable set of matches than previously thought. They won’t have to face one of the top-ranked nations until the last four.
At that point they could be taking on co-hosts Australia or France, although they will have to come through Denmark and Morocco respectively first.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the draw, pre-tournament favourites and reigning champions USA take on the number two team in the world, Sweden. The winners of that clash would be considered the favourites to reach the decider on 20th August in Sydney.
But given how many surprises have been sprung in this tournament so far, no one would be shocked to see a few more before then.
When is England’s next game in the Women’s World Cup?
England take on Nigeria on Monday, 7th August in Brisbane. The match kicks off at 8.30am GMT and will be broadcast live on BBC One, the BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website.
Every fixture in the Women’s World Cup round-of-16:
- Switzerland vs Spain
- Japan vs Norway
- Netherlands vs South Africa
- Sweden vs USA
- England vs Nigeria
- Australia vs Denmark
- Colombia vs Jamaica
- France vs Morocco