England book spot in final 16, hold on to defeat Colombia in Group F

Experienced England, rebounding well from an opening day defeat against France, ensured their passage into the final 16 of the Women’s World Cup Wednesday afternoon after a strong first half laid the foundation for a 2-1 triumph over Colombia.

It was their second straight victory after the disappointing opening performance which meant they finished second in Group F on goal-difference despite finishing level on six points with the group-winning French.

England now heads to Ottawa where they will face Norway on Monday in a knockout stage match of second place group finishers. Colombia, advancing as one of the best third place teams, will play a group winner to be determined after all of the first round is completed later Wednesday night.

Karen Carney and Fara Williams, from the penalty spot, gave England their advantage in the opening 45 minutes when they were very much on top. That dominance faded completely after the restart but Colombia could not overcome the deficit despite playing a much more direct game and asking some questions of the English defense. Lady Andrade’s stoppage time goal was their only reward as the Colombian star neatly chipped the ball into the far corner to give her side some solace.

Andrade’s work on the left byeline, where she ghosted past two defenders before crossing, gave Daniel Montoya the first real chance of the match, but the Colombian midfielder hit her 6th-minute shot over the bar and that early territorial edge for the South Americans disappeared quickly.

Carney put England on top in the 17th minute, making no mistake when Colombian keeper Sandra Sepulveda failed to hold Steph Houghton’s long range free kick, spilling the rebound at the left post for Carney to slide home her second goal of the tournament. It was a mistake by the keeper, who was not under pressure to handle the shot and should have safely secured possession.

England, which had absorbed some early pressure from the speedy Colombian flanks, really settled after the goal and assumed control of the rest of the half.

When Catalina Usme brought down Jade Moore in the 36th minute England had a dangerous free kick 22 yards out on the top right and it eventually brought them a penalty. Houghton’s free kick was not dealt with in the box, and Carolina Arias wound up handling Toni Duggan’s rebound attempt as she sprawled on the pitch attempting to defend the close-range shot. Williams buried the spot kick to Sepulveda’s right.

England keeper Karen Bardsley denied Carolina Arias with a fine save in first half stoppage time as Colombia finally managed to catch the English with a quick counter-attack and perhaps that was the moment when the South Americans gained some confidence in their ability to take the match the other way.

The Colombians had an especially good spell of pressure around the hour mark, but when Yoreli Rincon fired just past Bardsley’s top right hand corner from long range their best chance went unrewarded. Bardsley then reacted very well to a cross from Diana Ospina in the 71st minute as Colombia continued to push forward without being able to put the final passes together.

Sepulveda should have seen red in the final 10 minutes when she came well outside her area to trip Jodie Taylor, who was racing in alone in the clear. The inexplicable yellow card was Sepulveda’s second of the tournament, however, and means the veteran will not be available for Colombia’s knockout opener as she serves a suspension.