By Ros Satar
- England Women break their knockout stages duck with a win over Norway
- Stunning goal from Lucy Bronze clinches the win
- Now face hosts Canada in bid to advance past quarter-finals for the first time
Ottowa, CANADA – England march on after stunning favourites Norway 2-1 to book their place in the Women’s World Cup in Canada on Monday.
A long range strike from Lucy Bronze gave England the lead in a match where they looked to be under pressure a lot of the time. The first half saw them pressed all the way by Norway.
Goal-keeper Karen Bardsley was put hard to work by oncoming Norwegian attacks, and finally the Scandinavians were rewarded when Solveig Gulbrandsen put the much fancied team ahead after half-time.
Winners of the 1995 World Cup, and the 2013 European Championships runners-up, they had never lost to England in four previous attempts at majors.
It was skipper Steph Houghton who put the Lionesses back in contention with a header from a corner, as England’s set pieces finally saw some traction, but Bronze’s thundering strike in the 76th minute made for a tense 14 minutes as England worked to hang on to their lead, but with the momentum with them they finished strongly.
Teammates flooded on to the pitch at the end to celebrate a landmark victory for Mark Sampson’s side but the chance to notch up another piece of history still beckons.
Having directly qualified in three previous World Cups straight into the quarter-finals, they have yet to advance to the semi-finals.
The Lionesses lost to the hosts in a pre-tournament friendly but head to Vancouver now with renewed confidence, to face a team managed by Englishman John Herdman.
“They knew this was a big game and they wanted to write their names into our football history,” said Sampson, talking to BBC Sport.
“They have made history and deserve all the credit in the world. They stepped up and delivered for the country.”
Sampson continued: “It’s going to be a big game in front of a big crowd. It’s a special one to look forward to.
“We know we face a game against an excellent manager and an excellent team. We will prepare with due diligence and then it is about the players delivering.”
The team have come on in leaps and bounds since starting on the back foot with a loss against France in the opening round. Skipper Houghton praised the team, acknowledging that the loss had acted as a spur for the team to improve.
She said: “I’m so proud of everyone that is involved. We’ve come a long way in this tournament and took a bit of stick after the France game about how we played. We dug deep and showed a bit of character under great pressure.”
England face Canada in Vancouver on Sunday 28 June, 12:30am BST.