Lionesses of England should be prepared for a ‘tough’ knockout game with Nigeria, with a sense of the unpredictable to grapple with.
Six goals from England secured a victory over China in their final group game of the Women’s World Cup.
Two controversial VAR decisions denied the Lionesses an even more comfortable lead, with a final score of 6-1.
But England’s next opponents should not be underestimated, Lionesses legend Rachel Yankey has warned.
Pre-tournament underdogs Nigeria upset World Cup co-hosts Australia 3-2 on their last visit to Brisbane.
Yankey, who played for Arsenal and England, told Metro: ‘I think the next game will be quite tough to be honest. Nigeria play a very different style of football.
‘It’s silly, but before today part of me was thinking, “Oh, it could be easier if [England] come second and play Australia”.
‘So I’m glad in this game they’ve got goals and managed to rotate the team so they can rest some players.
‘Some players who haven’t played at a World Cup before got on the pitch which was good to see, it was a real positive in many ways – not just goals.’
Russo’s first goal, just four minutes in, was needed by the Lionesses, who had struggled to find form in previous games of their World Cup journey.
Yankey added: ‘This team has been questioned on scoring from open play, so I think that first goal from Alessia was really important. After that, Lauren James was fantastic and so many other players managed to prove themselves.
‘Everyone looked confident.
‘People watching wanted to see goals, they got goals today so I think people can be happy.’
The former Arsenal player enjoyed England v China after a visit to Bearsted FC, Alessia Russo’s first club in Kent.
Its investment has enabled an additional 200 new clubs to be set-up across the country in the last year following England’s Euros win.
Yankey continued: ‘I was lucky enough to be down at Alessia Russo’s first club this morning and see how the girls are playing down there.
‘This was a club that was close to closing when the pandemic hit, they got National Lottery funding of £10,000 to keep it afloat.
‘There’s plenty of girls down there that are loving football and enjoying it.
‘Some of these girls may never get to the level of their former player Alessia Russo, but it will give them an insight into the game and the knowledge they could go down a pathway into women’s sport.
‘They have been encouraged to have a voice and know it will be listened to.
‘These girls feel they can stand up and shout out about things that aren’t right, but also be loud and proud about positive things.
‘Now we need to make sure there’s more funding and more investment to keep that going.
‘The National Lottery have funded 200 clubs since the Euros and it just makes me think “wow, how many potential Lionesses we will have in the future.’”