Round of 16 Rolls On With England-Nigeria and Australia-Denmark

Sam Kerr, left, and teammates celebrating after winning a match against Canada.Credit…William West/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Is Monday the day we see the return of Sam Kerr? That is the question. So far in this tournament, the co-host country Australia has been without its top star — and has barely held on, advancing with a big victory in a must-win group stage match over Canada. Kerr suggested she was game-ready on Sunday, telling reporters: “I’m really excited. I will play.” After New Zealand exited the World Cup in the group stage, Australia has to win to keep at least one host country in contention.

England enters the knockout stage as one of the only expected contenders to perform to that standard in the group stage, winning all of its matches — although not by the wide margins some expected. Nigeria stunned Australia, 3-2, to reach the round of 16 — and will be looking to supply another surprise.

England vs. Nigeria

England won two of its group stage matches by a single goal, beating Haiti and Denmark by the same score, 1-0. Some were questioning the Lionesses’ offensive output until they handily defeated China, 6-1, in their final match to decisively win the group. The English, who burnished their reputation with a 2022 European Championships win, have their sights set on the final of this World Cup, but will have to beat an upstart Nigeria to advance to the quarterfinal round.

Nigeria has proved to be a tough opponent so far in this tournament, holding Canada and Ireland to scoreless ties and upsetting Australia. The Nigerians have not lost since February, but have never won a knockout game in the team’s seven previous World Cup appearances.

Australia vs. Denmark

With Kerr expected to return to the lineup, the Matildas will be looking to show the full breadth of their potential. The Australians will need Kerr’s striking power — Denmark held England to a single goal, 1-0, in the Danes’ lone loss of the group stage.

In 2019, Australia was ousted in the round of 16 by Norway in a penalty shootout. Denmark hasn’t qualified for a World Cup since 2007, and is here to make the most of it.

“This is do or die now,” said Australia goaltender Mackenzie Arnold.