England booked their place in the last-16 of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup after defeating Colombia 2-1 to finish runners-up in Group F.
First-half strikes from Karen Carney and Fara Williams (pen) gave the Lionesses a commanding lead inside Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, only for Colombia’s Lady Andrade to tuck away an injury-time consolation to test England’s resistance until the very end.
Mark Sampson’s women will face Group B runners-up Norway, ranked 11th in the world, in Ottawa on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals.
Heading into their Group F decider, knowing a win or a draw would be enough to see sixth-seeded England through to the knockout stages, manager Sampson made five changes to the side that fought off Mexico 2-1 on Saturday, with Alex Scott, Casey Stoney, Alex Greenwood, Carney and Jordan Nobbs all starting.
However it was Colombia, ranked 28th in the world, who carved out the first opportunity of the game inside the 60,000-capacity indoor stadia, with Daniela Montoya blazing over following Andrade’s cutback down the left-flank.
After a cleverly worked corner kick routine almost broke the deadlock just moments earlier, the Lionesses pounced in the 15th minute to take the lead when Birmingham City striker Carney scored her second World Cup goal in as many games.
England captain Steph Houghton saw her powerful 25-yard free-kick saved by goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda, but only as far as the onrushing Carney who gobbled up the rebound with an instinctive finish to give the Lionesses first blood.
Then, after the South American’s briefly threatened England’s goal when Andrade flashed a long-range effort wide, the Lionesses doubled their lead on 36 minutes when Sampson’s women were awarded a spot-kick.
Referee Carol Anne Chenard pointed to the spot after Carolina Arias blocked Toni Duggan’s effort with her arm, giving England’s most-capped player, Williams, the honour from the penalty spot to score her 38th goal on her 143th appearance for her country.
After a creative, pulsating and attacking first-half display from England, the Lionesses had their work cut out after the break as a change of formation (4-4-2) invited the South Americans to go on the front foot.
After the recalled Scott spurned a great chance inside the opening five minutes of the second-half, Colombia began to dominate possession and lingered dangerously around the edge of England’s 18-yard area as their back four nervously dealt with the likes of Andrade and Yoreli Rincon’s trickery.
Lianne Sanderson climbed off the bench just before the hour mark to make her first appearance in the 2015 World Cup finals, and the Arsenal striker nearly made it 3-0 to England with a rasping drive late on, but Sepulveda was equal to her effort.
After four added minutes was held aloft by the fourth official; just as they did against Mexico four days ago, England let their clean sheet slip through their fingers after a blip in concentration at the back.
Left-back Greenwood failed to track Andrade’s darting run in behind the Lionesses defence, gifting the winger a one-on-one with Karen Bardsley, and she brilliantly lifted the ball over the Manchester City goalkeeper to set-up a tense finale.
However, Sampson’s women held onto their slender one-goal advantage as they celebrated joining France in the last-16 after the Group F winners thrashed Mexico 5-0 in Ottawa. Colombia weren’t too distraught though, as they are also safely through to the knockout stages as the tournament’s best third-placed side.