THERE is no reason why England Women’s journey into uncharted World Cup territory cannot continue past the quarter-finals.
That is the opinion of Pompey Ladies’ Nigeria striker, Ini Umotong, following her own side’s exit from the tournament at the group stage.
The Super Falcons were pitched into the so-called group of death with Sweden, Australia and USA.
African champions Nigeria showed their potential to cause an upset in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Sweden.
But narrow losses to Australia (2-0) and USA (1-0) ensured a frustrating, if expected, departure.
The Three Lionesses, meanwhile, created history by beating Norway 2-1 on Tuesday night to set up an intriguing last-eight clash with host nation Canada in the early hours of tomorrow morning (00.30am).
England had never before won a game in the knockout stages of the sport’s most prestigious competition.
But Umotong, who opted to pledge her international allegiance to Nigeria ahead of a potential Three Lionesses call-up, feels Mark Sampson’s side will have a point to prove following a recent 1-0 loss to the host nation in their final World Cup warm-up game.
Added incentive for victory arrives in the form of Canada’s English coach Johnny Herdman – with the outspoken Geordie critical of his opponents’ playing methods in the past.
Umotong said: ‘I think they (England) are doing really well this World Cup and I can see no reason why they cannot hold their own in their next game.
‘They have benefitted from the addition of new players into the squad – especially Fran Kirby who has brought a new light to them.
‘Canada will be slight favourites because they won their friendly game against England 1-0 but I fully expect it to be a really good game between the two of the them.’
When questioned on her tip for overall tournament glory, Umotong found it hard to look past bookmakers favourites Germany, although she refused to rule out an unlikely England glory.
She added: ‘Germany especially stick out for me as the team to beat.
‘They and Japan would be my two favourites for glory.
‘But it’s football and as we all know anything can happen in football, so I wouldn’t rule England out.’
n See Tuesday’s paper for Ini Umotong’s World Cup memories