Super Falcons beware – Lauren James isn’t the only hurdle in the Round of 16

Super Falcons beware – Lauren James isn’t the only hurdle in the Round of 16
Credit: Icon Sport

As excitement, preparation and apprehension is building towards the Super Falcons blockbuster clash against England in the Round of 16 of the FIFA Women's World Cup, Nigerians can't but reason the threat the England team carry at the moment.

The England women's team, known as the Lionesses, have a handful of very talented players in their squad. These players ensured that England reigned supreme at last year's Euros.

And so far at this current World Cup, these players have risen to the occasion especially after dispatching China 6-1 on 1 August.

Randy Waldrum and his team have began making plans to prevail over England, putting Lauren James at the centre of the puzzle to solve. However, the Chelsea winger is not the only threat the English team carry at their Arsenal.

We believe there are other players who can equally hurt the Super Falcons, and all of these should be discussed internally by Waldrum, his coaching crew and the team as they prepare towards making the best decisions going into the battle with the Lionesses.

Super Falcons captain Onome Ebi embraces Halimatu Ayinde
Credit: Icon Sport

As we gear up for the tournament's round of 16, let's focus on the top five England women players expected to make significant threat to the Nigerian Super Falcons chances of reaching the quarterfinals.

England women's national football team's best players at the Women's World Cup

Lauren James

Lauren James expected to star against the Super Falcons
Credit: Icon Sport

Lauren James has starred for England so far in the competition. She is easily the best player in the team at the moment.

The Chelsea winger's play-making ability, quick footwork and precision in delivering crosses makes her an integral part of England's offensive weapon and a serious threat to the Super Falcons chances at the next stage.

James has six goals contribution for the Lionesses at this competition; three goals and three assists. She was the puzzle the Chinese team couldn't find answer to in their 6-1 loss.

With each passing game, James is making a mark for England at this World Cup, and Super Falcons backline must collectively take her out of the game to halt England's progress at the tournament.

Lauren Hemp

Lauren Hemp expected to start against the Super Falcons of Nigeria
Credit: Icon Sport

Manchester City forward Lauren Hemp is an exceptional talent which brings bite to the England's offensive play.

Lauren Hemp combined with Lauren James to get England's second goal against the Chinese; opening her goal account in the ongoing tournament.

Her pace, keen eyes in scoring goals, and brilliant ball control makes her a genuine threat to the Super Falcons defense. Randy Waldrum should without fail tell his players to keep an eye on Hemp throughout her stay on the pitch as she's likely to start the game.

She was named England ‘Young Player of the Year' in September 2016, 2017 and ‘PFA Women's Young Player of the Year' in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022.

The Super Falcons backline should keep an eye on the 22-year-old as she's poised to make a strong statement in the game against Nigeria after scoring her first goal at this World Cup.

Alessia Russo

Alessia Russo expected to face Super Falcons of Nigeria
Credit: Icon Sport

Alessia Russo scored first in England's 6-1 annihilation of China in their last group game to get her name on the scoring charts of the ongoing women's tournament.

With that goal, confidence is back for the former Manchester United forward who has exceptional technical skills, good vision, and a keen sense of goal. She is one of the potential problems the Super Falcons will face when both sides meet, and the Nigerian women must be careful about her.

Along with the other Lionesses' forwards, Russo is one to watch out for by the Super Falcons as performances is crucial to England's success in the tournament.

Lucy Bronze

England Lucy Bronze expected to start against the Super Falcons
Credit: Icon Sport

Lucy Bronze shaked off an injury prior to the tournament and has featured in all of the Lionesses three group stage matches with an average rating of 8.0 which has helped England keep two clean sheets in three games.

The Barcelona right-back was key in England's dominance in the Euros last year as her crossing and toughness helped them a lot.

The Super Falcons defense should watch out for Bronze's precised crosses and the power in her shooting the ball, she must never be allowed to make those crosses to aid England's offensive play.

Bronze excels in the big games and she is expected to be one of the standout players as England takes on the Super Falcons. But if Waldrum's side can take her out of the game, Nigeria can fancy their chances at the next stage of the competition.

Mary Earps

England goalkeeper expected to start against the Super Falcons
Credit: Icon Sport

As the saying goes ‘behind every trophy-winning team, there's a great goalkeeper'. Mary Earps was in goal when the Lionesses triumphed in last summer's Euros.

She has carried on her performances into the Women's World Cup, and has already kept two clean sheets, and made a total of six saves so far in the competition.

The Super Falcons forwards and entire team should be wary of the threat Earps poses in goal for England, and must be very clinical and decisive in which area of the goal post to tuck the ball in without the reach of the Lionesses' goalie.

At the FIFA annual awards in February 2022, the Manchester United shot-stopper was awarded ‘Best Goalkeeper', and has been exceptionally good in organising her defense during the group stage of the Women's World Cup.

Earps kept 14 clean sheets in the WSL last season to win the Golden Glove playing for United. With two clean sheets already in this tournament, she will be eager to keep another clean sheet against the Super Falcons if the Oshoala-led attack doesn't bite enough.

This article was most recently revised and updated 9 months ago

Joseph is a graduate engineer turned sports writer, he has covered lots of sports stories, match previews and predictions across various leagues on the planet.