England must beware of Nigeria striker Asisat Oshoala when they face the African nation for a place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Brisbane on Monday, according to Karen Carney.
The former Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder who was capped 144 times by England, believes England have hit form at just the right time but says Nigeria should not be taken lightly.
Barcelona’s Oshoala is their stand-out player and although she has scored only once in the tournament so far, in the 3-2 win over hosts Australia, the five-time African Player of the Year will be the main threat to Sarina Wiegman’s side.
“She is a top quality striker who is more than capable of pulling something out of the bag,” Carney said in an interview with Powerleague. “I expect Nigeria will have big expectations and big hopes, so we can’t rest on our laurels.
“Despite how good England were against China, Nigeria are a top nation that will cause us problems. They have a world class striker and individual players that will be difficult for us.
“They are fighters and they fear no-one.”
After unconvincing displays in narrow wins over Haiti and Denmark, England hit form against China with a 6-1 victory in which Lauren James scored twice.
Carney is not surprised to see James thriving at the tournament.
“We’ve all known about her talent and her ability. It was just about when the opportunities will come for the rest of the world to see what we’ve known for a long time,” Carney said
“She’s been incredible and it looks effortless for her. We just need to give her the platform to do what she does best and support her in that. It’s good for her to come onto the scene raw, without knowing what a tournament like this feels like and the pressure that can come with it.”
An injury to Oshoala’s Barcelona team mate Keira Walsh meant England lined up with a new 3-5-2 forward against China and Carney says that could prove to be a turning point.
“I’d like to see us build some momentum and we will only perform even better the more that we use this new formation,” Carney, part of the England team that came third at the 2015 World Cup, said. “You want your opponent to think long and hard when they see your team sheet and wonder what you might do.
“This new formation might have caused a shock and that should work in our favour.”