Jodie Taylor broke a 14-month goal drought to shoot England past Argentina and into the last 16 of the women’s World Cup on Friday after Cristiana Girelli’s hat-trick saw the Italians through with a 5-0 hammering of hapless Jamaica.
Euro 2017 top scorer Taylor tapped home her first England goal since April 2018 from Beth Mead’s inviting low cross just after the hour mark to send England to the top of Group D on six points, two ahead of Japan, and into the next round alogside Italy, France and Germany with a game still to play.
“I’m the first one to admit that I score goals because of my teammates. The Euros I won the golden boot because of the quality of my teamates,” Taylor told reporters. “The ball from Beth today absolutely showed that.”
Phil Neville’s side now need a point in Nice on Wednesday against Japan, who beat Scotland 2-1 earlier on Friday, to ensure they finish in first place and avoid a potential clash with European champions the Netherlands in the next round.
They could form part of a powerful group of teams in the knockouts with the three strong-looking European nations plus the USA, who are heavy favourites to go through from their group.
“To be honest I’m so focused on the group I don’t even know who we could face yet,” added Taylor about the prospect of facing one of those sides. “We want to top the group, that’s all we want to focus on — ask me after Japan.”
Despite the defeat the ‘Albicelestes’, third in the group with a point, can still qualify for the knockout stages if they beat Scotland in their final game in Paris, although they will have to show more attacking intent than they have in their opening two matches.
The were twice saved by goalkeeper Vanina Correa, who pushed Nikita Parris’ 28th-minute penalty off the post and then pulled off a super stop to deny the excellent Mead four minutes before the break.
Girelli hat-trick for Italy
Italy took their place in the knockout stages following Juventus striker Girelli’s treble and a late brace from Aurora Galli, which also gave Milena Bertolini’s side a perfect six points and put them top of Group C.
Italy can now guarantee top spot by getting a result from their final game against Brazil, although their superior goal difference means they can lose and still maintain first place.
“We never thought we would have got this kind of result at the outset of the tournament,” said Bertolini, whose side were among the outsiders before the start of the World Cup.
However the penalty with which Girelli opened her tournament account caused controversy, with referee Anna-Marie Keighley pointing to the spot after a VAR check in the 10th minute for a what looked like a soft foul on Barabara Bonansea.
Girelli then missed the spot-kick, but Keighley allowed her to retake following another VAR check that Jamaica goalkeeper Sydney Schneider had encroached.
The 29-year-old made no mistake the second time round — two minutes after the original penalty was given — before doubling Italy’s lead 13 minutes later when she bundled home Bonansea’s flick-on from a corner.
Girelli became only the second Italian woman to score a World Cup hat-trick just after the break when she beat Schneider to a looping cross.
“I couldn’t have even dreamed of scoring a hat-trick in the World Cup, it’s an incredible personal satisfaction,” said Girelli.
Mana Iwabuchi set 2011 winners Japan on their way against the Scots and Yuika Sugasawa converted a penalty as Japan closed in on the last 16, just four days after a disappointing display in a goalless draw against Argentina.
Scotland claimed a goal back late on through substitute Lana Clelland, but they will be disappointed at offering nothing going forward until it was too late after being 2-0 down at half-time, just like in their opening defeat against England.
Their hopes of qualifying for the last-16 at their debut World Cup are slim before a final group game against Argentina.