England progressed to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Round of 16 yesterday afternoon, beating Colombia 2-1 with first half goals from Karen Carney and Fara Williams.
 Mark Sampson made a number of changes to his England side, including 3 changes to the back 4 – former captain Casey Stoney in for Laura Bassett at centre-back, partnering current captain Steph Houghton, Alex Scott returning to the starting line-up instead of Lucy Bronze at right-back and Claire Rafferty replaced by Alex Greenwood on the left. England no.1 Karen Bardsley retained her place in goal.
 In midfield Fara Williams was once again stationed in front of the back 4; England vice-captain Jordan Nobbs making her World Cup debut alongside Jade Moore in centre midfield with Karen Carney starting at the tip of the midfield diamond behind a strike pairing of Toni Duggan and Fran Kirby.
 The Lionesses had been criticised in some quarters for takin a defensive stance against the French in their group opener, France subsequently lost to Colombia making England’s second group game against Mexico a must-win. After a nervy start in Moncton, England were greatly improved in the second half following the introduction of Karen Carney and Alex Greenwood. Carney influential in the opening goal scored by Fran Kirby before adding a second to guarantee the 3 points.
 Due to 4 3rdplace teams also qualifying, in addition to the top 2 from each group, England could possibly have afforded a draw in Montreal but their attacking intent was clear from the opening whistle.
 Casey Stoney almost gave her country an early lead following a clever set piece; Greenwood playing the ball up the touchline towards Alex Scott who swung a cross in towards and past the back post, this was clipped back into the box to the head of Stoney but her header went narrowly over the crossbar.
 Shortly after England did go ahead, another set piece this time Steph Houghton going for goal from a free kick, her strike towards the bottom left corner was punched away by the goalkeeper only as far as the incoming Karen Carney who put the ball in the back of the net. The Birmingham City captain scoring her second goal of the tournament in as many games.
 England continued to press forward, defending well as a team when Colombia attempted to counter, with Karen Bardsley particularly effective in coming off her line and clear any balls into the box.
 Fara Williams soon doubled England’s advantage from the penalty spot, the referee correcting awarding the spot kick after Carolina Arias handled Toni Duggan’s strike. Liverpool’s vice-captain stepped up to smash the ball past the keeper to make it 2-0 to England.
 It could be argued that Colombia’s goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda should have received a red card after taking out England substitute Jodie Taylor midway through her own half, the referee perhaps a little lenient and Sepulveda will now be unavailable to face the USA in their Round of 16 clash.
 The keeper was involved again minutes later with another of England’s substitutes, tipping Lianne Sanderson’s shot onto the crossbar. This was Sanderson’s second chance at opening her World Cup account, shortly after entering the action the Arsenal striker couldn’t connect with her club team mate Jordan Nobbs’ cross.
 Colombia were largely reduced to trying their luck from range, Alex Scott working tirelessly up and down the flank whilst also covering well at the back – Yoreli Rincon with a sweetly struck strike inches wide of the post.
 The Colombians did pull a goal back in stoppage time,  Lady Andrade chipping the ball over Karen Bardsley to make it a nervy final minute for England, who held on to secure the 3 points and qualify for the Round of 16 in Group F’s second place – second only to France on goal difference.
 ENGLAND XI Bardsley, A.Scott, Stoney, Houghton ©, Greenwood, Williams, Nobbs, Moore, Carney, Kirby, Duggan
 COLUMBIA XI Sepulveda, Gaitan (C), Ospina, Montoya, Velasquez, Rincon, Usme, Clavijo, N. Arias, Andrade, C. Arias
 FIFA Player of the Match : Fara Williams
 England will now face Norway in Ottawa on Monday 22nd June, kick off is 1pm over here and 6pm back home. A match report will be on this blog that evening.
 Thanks for reading this report, it is the first of 5 I will be bringing you from my time here in Canada. Before the England game on Monday, France take on Korea Republic in Montreal on Sunday.

 It was truly a great experience supporting England at my first World Cup game, being a Liverpool supporter I was absolutely made up to see Fara Williams score and named the official Player of the Match.

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