England book World Cup spot

England booked their place at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a game to spare after a resounding 4-0 victory against Wales in Cardiff.

In front of a record attendance for a women’s match in Wales, three goals in the final six first-half minutes sealed the points for England.

Eni Aluko, Laura Bassett and Lianne Sanderson added to Karen Carney’s 16th-minute opener to put the game out Wales’ reach.

Wales 0-4 England

2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier
Cardiff City Stadium
Thursday 21 August
England qualify for the World Cup

In the build-up much of the talk had been about Mark Sampson’s side being on the verge of booking their berth in Canada, but the home side still had everything to play for. 

Needing four points from their final games against England and Ukraine to give themselves a realistic chance of reaching the play-offs, Jarmo Matikainen’s Wales side started brighter.

Sarah Wiltshire was lively in the Lionesses’ box, and could have had a clean shot at goal had it not been for the alertness of England captain Steph Houghton.

As the rain began to fall over south Wales, Angharad James went close from range but failed to trouble Karen Bardsley in the England goal, while Carney fizzed an effort just over for Sampson’s side.

England were beginning dominate though, as they found their way into the game and kept possession with ease.

Aluko latched on to a long ball from Fara Williams and looked to be clean through, before Sophie Ingle recovered and shepherded the ball out for a corner. 

Sanderson was unlucky as she met Jordan Nobbs’ cross with a deft flick, only for it to clip a defender and out for a corner.

By this stage England were well and truly in control – and did not have to wait long for the first goal. 

Eni Aluko scores against Wales

Eni Aluko scores against Wales

Jessica Fishlock brought down Aluko 35 yards from goal and Carney stepped up to curl a dangerous free-kick into the danger zone. 

Nicola Davies moved for the ball then backed off as Aluko looked to get a touch. In the end neither did and the ball sailed into the corner of the unguarded net. 

The Lionesses had one foot on the plane to Canada and almost had two goals moments later, as Nobbs struck the crossbar with a wonderful effort from range.

England were in the ascendancy and soon put the game beyond the reach of their hosts. 

First the bounce of Toni Duggan’s throw-in was misjudged by a Welsh defender and the ball fell into the path of Aluko, who rifled into the roof of the net with a fantastic finish.

Laura Bassett prodded home as she met Williams’ corner, before Sanderson met Alex Scott’s inch-perfect cross with a fine header to put England 4-0 up and on their way to Canada before the game even reached its interval.

With the points already in the bag, the second half was a quieter affair.

The light drizzle of the first half had turned into a downpour in the second and yet the fluidity of the game was lost. 

Houghton went close with a header from a Williams corner which was brilliantly saved by Davies.

Substitute Jodie Taylor struck a post after Davies again denied England with a fine save from Carney’s shot.

But as a the rain continued, the game fizzled out and England were unable to add to their first-half flurry of goals.

It mattered not though. They were on their way to Canada and on their way in style.

England (4-3-3): 1 Karen Bardsley; 2 Alex Scott, 5 Steph Houghton (C), 6 Laura Bassett, 3 Demi Stokes; 7 Jordan Nobbs, 4 Fara Williams, 8 Karen Carney; 9 Lianne Sanderson, 10 Toni Duggan, 11 Eniola Aluko.

Substitutes: 17 Jodie Taylor (for Aluko) 61, 16 Fran Kirby (for Williams) 63, 15 Jill Scott (for Carney) 68

Substitutes not used: 12 Alex Greenwood, 13 Siobhan Chamberlain, 14 Casey Stoney, 18 Natasha Dowie

Goals: Carney (16) Aluko (39), Bassett (44), Sanderson (45)

Head coach: Mark Sampson

Wales (4-2-3-1): 1 Nicola Davies; 3 Nicola Cousins, 4 Kylie Davies, 5 Sophie Ingle, 2 Loren Dykes; 6 Michelle Green, 8 Jessica Fishlock; 7 Angharad James, 10 Sarah Wiltshire, 11 Helen Bleazard; 9 Natasha Harding.

Substitutes: 13 Carys Hawkins (for Green) 53, 17 Nadia Lawrence (for Dykes) 59, 16 Josie Green (for James) 88

Substitutes not used: 12 Sophie Dando, 14 Megan Wynne, 15 Samantha Quayle, 18 Hannah Keryakoplis

Head coach: Jarmo Matikainen

Referee: Efthalia Mitsi (Greece)

Attendance: 3,581