Women’s World Cup: England beat Japan to top their group

England set up quarter-final showdown with France after 2-0 win over Japan in their final group game

hope powell
England beat New Zealand 2-1 in their previous group game Photo: Paul Gregory/GNTO

hope powell

England qualified for the quarter-finals of the women’s World Cup as group winners after a 2-0 win over Japan in their final Group B game.

Arsenal Ladies striker Ellen White put England ahead early in the first half with a sublime lob from the edge of the box, before substitute Rachel Yankey doubled the lead with a wonderfully taken goal 24 minutes from time.

Hope Powell’s side showed little sign of the nervousness which had plagued them at times in the first two games, but Japan enjoyed early chances from distance through Kozue Ando and Yuki Nagasato.

England took the lead in magnificent style from a counter-attack on 15 minutes as Carney’s defence-splitting ball caught out the Japanese defenders. With goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori off her line, White was able to get to the ball first and direct it up and over the diminutive keeper from 22 yards.

Japan dominated possession for the rest of the first half but failed to make a breakthrough against a well-organised England backline.

Meanwhile, Mexico took a 2-0 lead over New Zealand in the other Group B game, meaning only the most extreme of collapses would deny England a place in the last eight.

Nagasoto should have levelled the score four minutes after the restart after she connected with an in-swinging free-kick. But the Turbine Potsdam forward could only direct her shot wide of Bardsley’s left-hand upright.

Influential forward Kelly Smith was unhappy at being replaced just after the hour, but England doubled their lead moments later as Yankey picked up a Rachel Unitt cross and clipped an angled shot over Kaihori.

“It was a tough game, like every other game we’ve had in this competition,” admitted Powell. “The team stuck to their game plan, which they had to against such a good side as Japan, and they worked incredibly hard.

“We play a high-tempo game which relies on a huge physical effort. We’re really looking forward to the quarter-final.

“We’re stronger than 2007. I have to pay compliments to my team, they closed Japan down well and put them under pressure. We scored the goals at the right time. We have a squad of 21 and we will need all of them.”

Goalscorer Yankey, one of the more recognisable faces in the England team, added: “Scoring the goal was fantastic and a great feeling. I was at first disappointed that the coach didn’t let me play from the beginning, but her strategy paid off!

“By bringing in fresh players, we always had fresher legs than the others and could move forward. I was put into the game for the second half and I was hot for scoring.”

England’s victory ensured they topped their group with seven points, setting up a quarter-final clash with France on Saturday.

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