Chloe Kelly has always enjoyed the big moments – see her extra-time winner in the Euros final last year, or her winning penalty in the Women’s Finalissima in April. When she stepped up to take another decisive spot-kick on Monday then, one to seal England’s place in the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals after a nervy meeting with Nigeria, few thought she’d miss. Even the unorthodox hop-skip-jump technique of the penalty wasn’t enough to cause jitters for those rooting for the Lionesses as she smashed the ball into the top corner and allowed a nation to breathe a sigh of relief.
Asked what was going through her head when she stepped up in that pressure moment, Kelly's response said a lot. "I just thought, 'I’m going to score'," she replied. "When you win that mental battle, it's always important."
The 25-year-old’s mentality has always been a key factor in her success. Speaking to GOAL back in late 2019, the young winger reflected on how enjoyable her experiences were in the first-team environment as a 16-year-old at Arsenal, the most successful club in English women’s football. “I think when you embrace the opportunity, obviously you’re going to be nervous, but you’re there to show what you’re capable of,” she said.
That attitude of taking everything in her stride has been there this whole time and, alongside her wonderful talent, it is what has turned her from a promising forward into an England – and Manchester City – star. Just look at how she went from rupturing her ACL right before she was almost certain to go to the Olympics with Great Britain, to fighting back to fitness in time to go to the Euros and score the goal that won the thing.
She’s had a quiet World Cup so far, Kelly. After failing to make a serious impact as a starter in England’s first two games, the winger netted from the bench in the 6-1 thrashing of China but couldn’t make too much happen against Nigeria, brought on as a late sub with the Lionesses already down to 10 players.
But that spot-kick could ignite her tournament. After all, she loves the big moment, and they’re only going to get bigger and bigger from here.