England, Italy reach the last 16 of Women’s World Cup

Le Havre, France: England and Italy joined Germany and France in the last 16 of the women’s World Cup on Friday as Jodie Taylor shot the Lionesses past Argentina and Cristiana Girelli’s controversial VAR-assisted hat-trick saw them hammer hapless Jamaica 5-0.
Taylor tapped home Beth Mead’s inviting low cross just after the hour mark to send England to the top of Group D on six points, two ahead of Japan, and into the next round with a game still to play.
Phil Neville’s side now need a point against Japan in Nice on Wednesday to ensure they finish in first place and avoid a potential clash with European champions the Netherlands in the next round.
Despite the defeat the ‘Albicelestes’, third in the group with a point, can still qualify for the knockout stages if they beat Scotland in their final game in Paris, although they will have to show more attacking intent than they have in their opening two matches.
The were twice saved by goalkeeper Vanina Correa, who pushed Nikita Parris’ 28th-minute penalty off the post and then pulled off a super stop to deny the excellent Mead four minutes before the break.
Earlier in the day, Italy took their place in the knockout stages following the Juventus striker Girelli’s treble and a late brace from Aurora Galli, which also gave Milena Bertolini’s side a perfect six points and put them both top of Group C.
Italy can now guarantee top spot in the group by getting a result from their final game against Brazil, although their superior goal difference means they can lose and still maintain first place.
“We never thought we would have got this kind of result at the outset of the tournament,” said Bertolini, whose side were among the outsiders before the start of the World Cup.
However the penalty with which Girelli opened her tournament account caused controversy, with referee Anna-Marie Keighley pointing to the spot after a VAR check in the 10th minute for a what looked like a soft foul on Barabara Bonansea.
Girelli then missed the spot-kick, but Keighley allowed her to retake following another VAR check that Jamaica goalkeeper Sydney Schneider had encroached.
The 29-year-old made no mistake the second time round — two minutes after the original penalty was given — before doubling Italy’s lead 13 minutes later when she bundled home Bonansea’s flick-on from a corner.
Girelli became just the second Italian woman to score a World Cup hat-trick just after the break when she beat Schneider to a looping cross.
“I couldn’t have even dreamed scoring a hat-trick in the World Cup, it’s an incredible personal satisfaction,” said Girelli.
Substitute Galli completed the rout, first firing home a long-range effort in the 71st minute before neatly taking Manuela Giugliano’s through ball and rounding Schneider to slot home the fifth 10 minutes later.
Elsewhere, Japan coach Asako Takakura insisted there is more to come from her young team after they gave their campaign a shot in the arm by beating Scotland 2-1 in Rennes.
Mana Iwabuchi set the 2011 winners on their way and Yuika Sugasawa converted a penalty as Japan closed in on the last 16, just four days after a disappointing display in a goalless draw against Argentina.
“It was a must-win game and, although there were difficult moments, we needed to be aggressive and score goals, and that is what we did,” said the coach. “We have beaten a wonderful Scottish team, but there is room for improvement so we will discuss how we can get better.”
Scotland claimed a goal back late on through substitute Lana Clelland, but they will be disappointed at offering nothing going forward until it was too late after being 2-0 down at half-time, just like in their opening defeat against England.
Their hopes of qualifying for the last 16 at their debut World Cup are slim before a final group game against Argentina in Paris. — AFP