By Ros Satar
- Goals from Fran Kirby (70’) and Karen Carney (’82)
- England now 2nd in Group F
- Columbia next in final group game
England made up for their disappointing start in the Women’s World Cup in Canada with a fine 2-1 win over Mexico, and now are in a strong position to qualify for the last 16.
Although it was substitute Carney who put them over the line with the second goal, the moment belonged to Kirby, who marked her first start at a major tournament with a confident finish late in the second half.
England, who lost their opening game to France, were able to relax, finally consolidating after wasting several chances in front of the net, with Carney heading in a second goal late in the second half, although they were caught napping as Fabiola Ibarra took full advantage of an error by goalkeeper Karen Bardsley to score in the 90th minute. With five minutes of extra time to hang on, England’s victory now places them on equal points with France. They were beaten by England’s final opponents Columbia, earlier 2-0.
England coach Mark Sampson said: “We knew it was a crucial day for us,” he said. “The France result was such a big shock that we had to handle that extra pressure. If we’d lost we could have been going home and it was great for the players to experience that.
“We looked tight in the first 10 minutes but they showed their maturity, we changed it tactically and we controlled our emotions. We still have areas to improve but we have laid some good foundations.”
His choice to select Kirby proved to be vindicated and she certainly is one of the stories of the tournament. Losing her mother when she was just 14 from a brain haemorrhage, Kirby struggled to cope, giving up on the sport and battling with depression. She made her comeback with Reading Town Ladies in the Sunday League before returning to Reading FC. Kirby, 21, is the second-youngest player in the squad and the only one from the second tier of the Women’s Super League.
“I’m really grateful to hear Mark has that much faith in me as a player and trusted me to give me my first World Cup start. This time last year, I wasn’t even in and around the squad,” she said after the match.
“It has been a difficult time for me and my family but now it just motivates me. One of the reasons why I was so happy to score today was knowing the journey I have been on and it shows that coming back into football was the right decision.”
Columbia are now on top of the group, with England and France tied in the middle, and with three teams progressing from four of the six groups, England could seal their place in the last 16 with a point against Columbia, when they play on Wednesday.