By 90Min
June 23, 2019

FIFA, one suspects, breathed an almighty sigh of relief on Saturday night. 

After a week of almost non-stop discussion of the application of goalkeeping encroachment laws with the assistance of VAR, the 2019 Women's World Cup had its first penalty shootout. And it went...absolutely fine. 

After goalkeeping encroachment forced three penalties to be retaken in the group stage – one of those penalties knocking Scotland out of the competition, another almost doing the same to Nigeria – everyone watching the scenes between Australia and Norway in Nice on Saturday evening had one eye on the goal line. 

Seven penalties were taken, in total. Norway's four all found the back of the net, Sam Kerr – the brilliant, unstoppable force of nature in green and gold – blazed hers over the bar before Emily Gielnik saw her attempt saved by Ingrid Hjelmseth. Australia did score their third, Steph Catley thumping home, but it was far too late. 

Just a couple of hours before, VAR and penalties had been a hot topic in England's pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday's clash with Cameroon. With FIFA tweaking the rules at the last second to ensure that goalkeepers couldn't get sent off in shootouts (coming off your line early is a bookable offence), the story has threatened to swallow up the rest of the tournament's storylines. 

England have yet to face a penalty in the tournament, and would expect to go through against the Indomitable Lionesses without needing spot kicks, but with potential quarter- and semi-final games against Norway and either the USA or France on the horizon, Neville and co have to plan for tight margins. 

Speaking about how little match testing was done with the new rule ahead of the World Cup, the England coach said: "I think it's a surprise, but we're best speaking about it at the end of the World Cup, my true thoughts on that and a few things. 

"The rules are the rules, we've had two talks from the referees, the referees have adhered to the rules and there's nothing we can do about it. I've got three keepers plus Ellie Roebuck who are probably really frustrated and disappointed, and can't see a reason behind it because it puts all the advantage with the forward, but we've just got to accept it."

And accept it they have. England have been making sure they keep up with the new laws – although Karen Bardsley admitted after Wednesday's win over Japan that she can't see many keepers changing their style overmuch to make sure they toe the line. 

Neville's approach, unsurprisingly, was a little different. "They can't take risks, because the penalty will have to be retaken. I don't think it's the type of action that you can try and bent the rules on, it's there for VAR to see so you've just got to get on with it. If there's a penalty or a shootout then my keepers have to handle it and abide by the rules, and if not then it'll be retaken. 

"Ultimately we've got to get on with it, whether it's right or wrong it's the rule. Maybe everyone at the World Cup should stop moaning about it, because it's not going to change. I can't see FIFA coming in now and saying 'you can take your foot off the line', it's here for the duration of the World Cup so our goalkeepers have been practising and they're in a good place about."

He's right about one thing – it's here for the duration. England's potential next opponents have shown they can deal with it. Time for the Lionesses to step up. 

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