England put in a strong performance to finish off the Women’s World Cup group stage and have good momentum going into their last-16 tie with Nigeria – but they cannot be complacent.
That was the message from manager Sarina Wiegman, who does not want her side to suffer an early exit and follow in the footsteps of top-ranked nations the USA, Germany, Canada and Brazil.
Nigeria, 11-time African champions, are ranked 36 places lower than England and have never gone further than the quarter-final stage at the Women’s World Cup.
Meanwhile England won Euro 2022 last summer and are favourites to win the tournament in Australia and New Zealand, but first must negotiate Monday’s game in Brisbane (08:30 BST kick-off).
“What we have seen in this tournament is that nothing is easy,” said Wiegman. “The growth of the game has shown in this tournament.
“We’ve not had an easy game at all and that’s what we expect [on Monday], that it will be very competitive and we need to be at our best.”
Wiegman said it was “inappropriate” for her side to be complacent but hopes they can cause Nigeria problems after showing their attacking prowess in a brilliant 6-1 thrashing of China last week.
England have reached the semi-finals in back-to-back Women’s World Cups and last failed to reach the quarter-finals in 2003 when they did not qualify for the tournament.
The Lionesses could also be boosted by the return of instrumental midfielder Keira Walsh, who was in team training on Sunday at Central Coast Stadium.
“Everyone who plays us wants to beat us. That’s nothing new,” added Wiegman. “The games have been very competitive. Nobody can be complacent because that’s inappropriate.
“I think Nigeria have done really well in this tournament and were in a very hard group. We all saw they did very well.
“They are an athletic team, quick in the transition and also want to play. We are aware of their strengths. What we will try to do is exploit their weaknesses.”
Wiegman said England now have two formation options they could use against Nigeria after the selection of a back three against China was so effective.
Chelsea’s Lauren James was a standout performer in that 6-1 win, scoring two goals and assisting three, and is now England’s top scorer at the tournament having also netted in their 1-0 victory over Denmark.