England defeated Wales 3-0 in Newport to qualify for next summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup finals.
Toni Duggan broke the deadlock on 57 minutes, Jill Scott added a second just three minutes later and Nikita Parris completed the scoring as Phil Neville’s side sealed their place at France 2019 with a game to spare.
The Lionesses began the match in second place in Group 1, a point behind their hosts, but in the knowledge that a victory at Rodney Parade would be enough to reach their fourth consecutive World Cup.
- 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup
- Group 1 qualifier
- Friday 31 August
- Rodney Parade, Newport
Patience is a virtue
Having won bronze at Canada 2015 and reached the semi-finals of Euro 2017, England began this World Cup campaign as strong favourites to top qualifying Group 1.
They had won all but one of their six qualifiers going into Friday night’s clash; the only match they didn’t collect maximum points from was a 0-0 draw with Wales in April – and it was this result which, remarkably, appeared to put the Lionesses’ World Cup hopes in jeopardy. A Wales victory in Newport would have forced England into the lottery of the play-offs.
But after 147 goalless minutes against the Red Dragons, England finally found that all-elusive breakthrough when Duggan steered home Fran Kirby’s cute set-up to reignite her side’s quest for a place in the finals
Neville made five changes from the England side that defeated Russia 3-1 in June, as he opted for experience on the biggest night of his reign so far.
Goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, captain Steph Houghton, left-back Alex Greenwood, midfielder Jordan Nobbs and prolific striker Jodie Taylor all returned to the fold. The quintet have almost 300 caps – and five bronze medals – between them.
Add in Scott’s 131 caps and Duggan’s 61; it’s clear that England’s big players all stepped up when they were needed most.
After another resolute first-half performance by Wales, who hadn’t conceded a goal in qualifying before Friday night, England simply blew their opponents away after the break.
Duggan netted on 57, Scott looped home a wonderful 12-yard header on the hour-mark and Parris rounded things off nine minutes later. Three goals in 12 blistering second-half minutes.
Parris completed England’s win with a close-range header on 69 minutes.
It was her sixth goal in qualifying and it maintains her status as the Lionesses’ top scorer of the France 2019 campaign.
The Manchester City forward now has 10 goals in 24 caps.
Unbeaten run continues
England’s victory extends their remarkable record in World Cup and European Championship qualifying matches.
The Lionesses are now unbeaten in 58 qualifiers, going all the way back to a World Cup play-off defeat by France in 2002.
They have picked up 49 wins and nine draws over the last 16 years.
England's final qualifier is against Kazakhstan on Tuesday.
England (4-2-3-1): 1 Karen Bardsley (Manchester City); 2 Lucy Bronze (Lyon), 5 Steph Houghton (capt; Manchester City), 6 Millie Bright (Chelsea), 3 Alex Greenwood (Manchester United); 8 Jill Scott (Manchester City), 4 Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal); 7 Nikita Parris (Manchester City), 10 Fran Kirby (Chelsea), 11 Toni Duggan (Barcelona); 9 Jodie Taylor (Seattle Reign).
Substitutes: 14 Isobel Christiansen (Lyon) for Taylor 78, 15 Keira Walsh (Manchester City) for Scott 83, 16 Rachel Daly (Houston Dash) for Kirby 88.
Substitutes not used: 12 Abbie McManus (Manchester City), 13 Carly Telford (Chelsea), 17 Beth Mead (Arsenal), 18 Melissa Lawley (Manchester City)
Goals: Duggan 57, Scott 60, Parris 69
Head coach: Phil Neville