MILLIE BRIGHT helps the Lionesses build momentum after defeating China to advance to the knockout rounds of the World Cup.
Lauren James scored a brilliant brace in Tuesday’s 6-1 win to give England a knockout round with Nigeria.
With their relentless performance, shattering their rivals’ defenses, they equaled their record for the largest win in a World Cup match.
The last time they won the tournament 6-1 was in 2007 when they defeated Argentina.
The result in Adelaide, Australia, was England’s response to criticism of their recent narrow wins and goalless open-game streak.
Skipper Bright said: “We’ve had a lot of criticism in the first two games but we’re not worried at all.”
“I’d love to concede a goal and win 1-0 because growing into tournaments gives you your momentum.”
“Things start clicking and you start finding your rhythm.
“There’s no greater feeling than leading the girls out no matter what the score is.”
“Win, lose or draw, I’m always proud to lead them.”
VAR controversy erupted in both halves after the defeat by China, including the decision to award a penalty to China and disallowing an England goal.
Lucy Bronze was involved in both moments, hitting the slatted frame with a powerful header.
The full-back was ruled offside when James scored a stunning goal late in the first half but it was called off.
And she received a yellow card for a handball that resulted in China converting a second-half penalty.
Bronze said: “I knew it hit my hand, but it wasn’t on purpose. Unless I cut off my arm, I don’t know how to get my arm out of the way.”
“If I tried to bat the ball away, I would have thrown my hand in the air.”
“I knew it wasn’t on purpose, but I guess the referee just wanted to give me a yellow card, just for fun.”
“I had more opponents than anyone else. It wasn’t a fun game in that sense.”
“I was quite disappointed that the game performed with this performance.
“But the most important thing is that we won, that we go through in the next game and no one else got hurt.”
On James’ disallowed goal, Bronze added: “I feel sad for LJ because I don’t know why it was ruled offside.”
“If Hempo (Lauren Hemp) had kicked in the cross, I wouldn’t have been offside.”
England’s emphatic victory at Hindmarsh Stadium enabled them to avoid the group stage embarrassment that befell Germany and Spain.
The European giants, who are among the favorites in the competition, found themselves at the wrong end with losses to Colombia and 2011 world champions Japan.
Futoshi Ikeda’s strikers defeated Spain 4-0 despite having just 23 percent possession, while a late goal defeated Germany 2-1 on Sunday.
And the United States succumbed to a goalless draw with stubborn Portugal.
Bright said: “This tournament will be one of the closest. It’s everyone’s business.”
“We’ve seen that in some results so far
“That’s why we’re staying in our lane, focusing on ourselves and making sure we’re the best prepared team on the day.”
England manager Sarina Wiegman, whose side face Nigeria at Brisbane Stadium on August 7, added: “I’m very proud of the team.”
“I think we’re really growing into the tournament.”
The Lionesses’ performances in Group D meant they conceded just one goal in three games and didn’t concede a goal in open play.
A penalty converted by China’s Wang Shuang gave England number one Mary Earps a goal for the first time in the tournament.
Bright added: “First and foremost it’s great that as an England team we pride ourselves on defending and good coverage.”
“We want to keep a clean sheet and as Karen Carney once said, ‘To keep a clean sheet is championships’.”
“We received criticism in the first two games because we didn’t score.
“But I think we showed how ruthless we can be on the other end.”
“It’s tournament football, you sometimes concede, but other than that I thought we were pretty strong in defence.”