Faye White assesses England's World Cup chances as "under the radar" rival named

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Faye White believes Nigeria will make Monday
Faye White believes Nigeria will make Monday's Round of 16 clash tough for England (Image: Photo by Alex Morton - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Former Lioness Faye White believes England can expect a "tough" game against Nigeria in the Women's World Cup Round of 16 - but says Sarina Wiegman's side can beat anyone at this summer's tournament.

The Lionesses turned on the style in their 6-1 win over China last time out, topping Group D after scoring three consecutive group stage victories. Chelsea forward Lauren James stole the show in Adelaide, netting twice and registering three assists to fire England through to the knockout stages.

Wiegman's side will now take on Nigeria, who are so far unbeaten at this summer's tournament, having taken points off co-hosts Australia, Olympic champions Canada, and the Republic of Ireland. But, while the Super Falcons are ranked 40th in the world, White says England could be in for a challenging contest when they step out at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on Monday.

"The fact that they beat Australia shows they’re not fazed and they’re confident with their game plan," White said, analysing the Lionesses' next opponents.

"That’s where I can see they’ve developed from when I played Nigeria. They’re a lot more organised and defensively sound. They used to be quite erratic at the back when I played them so they’ve really developed and learned the ability to frustrate teams. It’s going to be a physical and tough game, with lots of moments of transition."

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White knows first hand the rigours of international football, having captained the Lionesses for a decade between 2002 and 2012. The former Arsenal defender competed at five major tournaments over the course of her career and says a World Cup is the "pinnacle" of a footballer's career.

"It’s a nerve wracking moment because you know what’s at stake but it’s your dream come true really. Having put in all the hard work, training and travelling and sometimes even balancing it with other jobs, it’s just the pinnacle.

"I still have those memories of walking out for my first game and I still remember how that felt. All of these players will have amazing memories from this tournament and moments to tell their grandkids about."

Faye White assesses England's World Cup chances as "under the radar" rival namedEngland will take on Nigeria in the Round of 16 (Morgan Hancock/REX/Shutterstock)

She added: "There’s a heightened expectation from us all with England now because they’re European champions. I know there was some talk after the first game about ‘why have the only managed to beat Haiti 1-0?’, but as a player I know how that first game feels.

"Even when you think you’re ready the extra adrenaline because of the environment and the atmosphere really impacts you. The most important thing is always to get that first game won and get those points on the board. Now we don’t remember that Austria game at the Euros because they went on to win it, so it’s all about getting momentum as you go through."

And, if last week's victory over China is anything to go by, England certainly seem to be building momentum in Australia. Despite being without star midfielder Keira Walsh, the Lionesses turned in a sublime display against the reigning Asian champions, and White believes the performance had echoes of England's run to European glory.

"The China game gives me memories of when England beat Norway 8-0 at the Euros and things just clicked and just worked. For that to happen after losing Keira, and seeing the team handle the change of formation against a strong force like China, is really positive."

While White is confident England are capable of beating any team at this summer's tournament, there's one particular opponent she feels like Wiegman and her players should be wary of.

"The team I’ve been really impressed with is Japan. The Japan team in my day always had a lot of possession and had good technique but struggled on things like set pieces.

"Against Spain, they had hardly any possession and were so good at counter-attacking they beat them 4-0. They’ve shown they can adapt and have a Plan B so I’ve been blown away with them. They’re going a little bit under the radar but they could be one to watch."

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While White has now hung up her playing boots, she's working with the FA to make healthier eating easier, inspiring, and more accessible for families through the power of football. Last year, the FA partered with M&S to establish the 'Eat Well, Play Well' campaign to encourage kids to make healthier eating choices.

As part of the partnership, M&S Food has now opened two new stores opened inside Wembley, offering football fans and concert goers the chance to make healthier choices when visiting the national stadium.

Faye White assesses England's World Cup chances as "under the radar" rival namedFormer England internationals Faye White and Shaun Wright-Phillips open the new M&S Foodhalls at Wembley Stadium

"The partnership is all about using football as a tool to drive young families and children to understand the importance of eating healthily," White said.

"As you grow up, you have to make those choices yourself so it’s about learning better habits from a young age. I’m a mum of two boys so I know how important that is. They love football and so using top stars in the men’s and women’s game to inspire children is really important.

"You take your family to a game but you don’t always have those healthy options. It’s usually burgers and chips and pizzas so to see these two food halls opening at Wembley is a brilliant idea and I’m a parent who would use them. With the Eat Well stickers as well, it makes it so much easier so you know the food you’re picking is healthy and balanced."

Faye White was speaking at the opening of the new M&S Food store inside Wembley Stadium connected by EE. The store is part of M&S Food’s commitment through its Eat Well, Play Well partnership with the FA to make healthier eating more accessible for families through the power of football.

Beth Lindop

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