- goal scored by E. White
goal scored by
- E. White
Ellen White brace secures top spot
Phil Neville's side defeat Japan to make it three wins from three
England beat Japan courtesy of an Ellen White brace to progress to the knockout stages as Group D winners at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
A left-footed strike in each half ensured Phil Neville’s side topped their World Cup pool for the first time since 2011.
White’s goals also meant the Lionesses have won all three of their World Cup group games for the first time, although they will be especially grateful for the crucial saves of Karen Bardsley.
There were eight changes from the side that beat Argentina in Le Havre, including Rachel Daly whose early cross almost broke for Manchester City midfielder Jill Scott.
Japan looked to threaten but Kumi Yokoyama sliced an effort off target after a loose Keira Walsh touch. However, not deterred by her miss, just minutes later, the Japan attacker set her sights with a long-range free kick, only to be foiled by the supreme athleticism of England goalkeeper Bardsley.
Georgia Stanway was the next player to try her luck from distance, with a deflected effort breezing past the post before the full World Cup debutant curled another strike over from the second of two subsequent corners.
The breakthrough came in the 14th minute when Stanway displayed a sharp turn and strength to hold off Hina Sugita before finding White with the outside of her boot. The striker confidently struck her second goal of the tournament against the same team who she scored her first World Cup goal in 2011.
Intent on winning a World Cup match by a margin greater than one goal for the first time since that meeting, successive efforts from Scott and Stanway tested the reflexes of Ayaka Yamashita in the Japan goal.
A neatly-worked free kick gave Yokoyama another opportunity from outside of the area, but it was comfortably held by Bardsley.
Daly was denied by the palms of Yamashita, when she latched onto a superb half-volley pass from Walsh towards the end of the first half.
After the interval England looked to continue in their pursuit of a second and the ever-involved Stanway was the first to try her luck before the lead was almost doubled following a well-worked move down the right.
Daly’s combined with Bronze, whose cross was met by Duggan’s acrobatic strike which was well saved.
At the other end, the Lionesses were grateful for the last-ditch heroics of captain Steph Houghton, with her sliding tackle denying Yuika Sugasawa as the forward steadied to shoot inside the penalty area.
The lead was eventually doubled in the 84th minute when White again sprung the offside trap to meet a pass from second-half substitute Karen Carney and finish low for England’s second.
And the win was effectively confirmed thanks to more superb work from Bardsley who denied Sugasawa when the striker had a clear sight of goal late on.
England will now travel to Valenciennes for a last-16 match against a third-place team from either group B, E or F, to be determined on Thursday night.
By Thomas Smith, a Football Journalism student at the University of Derby
World Cup head-to-head
Find out how England sealed top spot in Group D
Japan 0-2 England
FULL TIME: The referee sounds the whistle to confirm England's victory - and their status as Group D winners. They will find out their last-16 opponents after the group stage is concluded on Thursday night.
89: With the win, and top spot in Group D, all but secure, Bardsley ensures her goal remains unbreached by denying Sugasawaa’s low drive.
84: GOAL! That should wrap it up! With Japan on top, but missing three or four decent chances, White shows them how it’s done. She gets on the end of Carney’s through ball and guides another left-foot shot into the bottom corner to make it 2-0.
83: The 2011 world champions have been the better side since the break and Yuika Sugasawaa comes close to levelling matters late on. She gets ahead of Bardsley to meet a left-sided cross but can only prod her effort over the bar.
Moments later, Nikita Parris is summoned from the bench to replace Duggan.
74: Another change follows quickly after, with Karen Carney replacing Stanway. It's the Chelsea captain's third substitute appearance at France 2019.
72: Neville makes his first substitution as Jade Moore enters the fray in place of Walsh.
59: In keeping with the flow of the game, the first chance of the second half falls to England as Daly and Lucy Bronze combine down the right, allowing the latter to find Duggan with a deep cross. Duggan, who has never scored a World Cup goal, sees her effort palmed away by Yamashita.
SECOND HALF: The Lionesses get us up and running again after the interval.
HALF TIME: A dominant England take a deserve one-goal lead into the break. And they are just 45 minutes away from completing their Group D campaign with three wins from three.
34: Another presentable chance for Neville’s charges. This time it's Daly who latches on to Walsh’s pinpoint pass – and once again Yamashita is in the way to tip the ball over.
19: So close for Stanway! The subsequent corner falls to Scott’s Manchester City club mate who slams a shot goalwards, forcing the Japan keeper into action once more.
18: The Lionesses are very much in the ascendancy early on as Jill Scott comes close to doubling the advantage, but her 20-yard strike is tipped around the post by Yamashita.
14: GOAL! White puts England ahead with her second goal of the tournament.
The 30-year-old is played in by Stanway's cute through ball and she dinked a left-foot shot beyond the on-rushing Ayaka Yamashita.
09: The first chance of the match falls to Kumi Yokoyama, whose scorching 25-yard free-kick is expertly tipped over the bar by Bardsley at full stretch.
01: 2011 winners and 2015 runners-up Japan get the action under way.
Head coach Phil Neville has made eight changes from the starting XI that took to the field against Argentina last Friday.
Demi Stokes replaces Alex Greenwood at left-back for her first-ever World Cup appearance while Toni Duggan comes in for Beth Mead for her first appearance at France 2019. Rachel Daly and Georgia Stanway have been handed their first tournament starts while Karen Bardsley, Millie Bright, Keira Walsh and Ellen White all return to the fold.
England Women are all set to take on Japan in their final group match at France 2019. While qualification is already confirmed, a win for the Lionesses will secure top spot.
Player of the Match
- Mins: 90
- Goals: 2