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England, Italy reach the Women’s WC last 16

 LE HAVRE (FRANCE), June 15: England and Italy joined Germany and France in the last 16 of the women’s World Cup as Jodie Taylor shot the Lionesses past Argentina and Cristiana Girelli’s controversial VAR-assisted hat-trick saw them hammer hapless Jamaica 5-0.

Taylor tapped home Beth Mead’s inviting low cross just after the hour mark to send England to the top of Group D on six points, two ahead of Japan, and into the next round with a game still to play.

Phil Neville’s side now need a point against Japan in Nice on Wednesday to ensure they finish in first place and avoid a potential clash with European champions the Netherlands in the next round.

Despite the defeat the ‘Albicelestes’, third in the group with a point, can still qualify for the knockout stages if they beat Scotland in their final game in Paris, although they will have to show more attacking intent than they have in their opening two matches.

They were twice saved by goalkeeper Vanina Correa, who pushed Nikita Parris’ 28th-minute penalty off the post and then pulled off a super stop to deny the excellent Mead four minutes before the break.

Earlier in the day, Italy took their place in the knockout stages following the Juventus striker Girelli’s treble and a late brace from Aurora Galli, which also gave Milena Bertolini’s side a perfect six points and put them both top of Group C. Italy can now guarantee top spot in the group by getting a result from their final game against Brazil, although their superior goal difference means they can lose and still maintain first place.

“We never thought we would have got this kind of result at the outset of the tournament,” said Bertolini, whose side were among the outsiders before the start of the World Cup.

However the penalty with which Girelli opened her tournament account caused controversy, with referee Anna-Marie Keighley pointing to the spot after a VAR check in the 10th minute for what looked like a soft foul on Barabara Bonansea. – AFP

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