Japan fall to White's double
Nice: Japan suffered their first defeat at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019, conceding a goal in each half to lose 2-0 to group winners England on Wednesday.
England made eight changes to the side that beat Argentina 1-0 last Friday, but a brace from Ellen White meant the Nadeshiko finished the first part of their campaign as Group D runners-up.
Asako Takakura’s side will now meet either the Netherlands or Canada in the Round of 16 on Tuesday, after Scotland and Argentina drew 3-3 in the other Group D match.
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Japan began the match assured of knockout stage football but needing a win to leapfrog England into top spot, and aware that defeat - coupled with an Argentina win over Scotland – had to the potential to knock them down to third.
A recalled Kumi Yokoyama was in the thick of the early action, firing a shot over the bar in the fifth minute, then sending a 35-yard free-kick arrowing towards the top corner three minutes later to force England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley into a good save.
But the Nadeshiko’s bright start counted for little as England took a 14th minute lead, with a cheap giveaway in the Japanese half allowing youngster Georgia Stanway to cleverly set up White, who calmly sent the ball trickling beyond Ayaka Yamashita and into the back of the net.
England enjoyed a purple patch immediately following their goal, with Yamashita producing two strong stops in as many minutes to deny Jill Scott, then Stanway, with Rachel Daly also calling on the Japanese shot-stopper into action later in the half.
Despite struggling for a period of time, Japan did ask questions of Phil Neville’s side in the latter stages of the half, but Bardsley’s goal was seldom in serious danger, and the single-goal margin held at the interval.
Scottish goals in Paris had allayed fears of tumbling down the group standings, but, with Mana Iwabuchi superb throughout the second half, Japan continued to look for a way back into the contest.
They regularly put together promising moves, but they were often let down by a heavy touch or inaccurate final pass, and one of Japan’s more promising periods nearly ended with an England goal, with only another top save from the excellent Yamashita denying what had looked to be a goal-bound volley from Toni Duggan.
Yuika Sugasawa replaced Yokoyama just after the hour-mark and almost immediately found herself through on goal, but a superbly-timed tackle from English skipper Steph Houghton prevented the Japanese forward from getting a shot away, although she did manage a shot on target from distance 10 minutes later.
With Iwabuchi increasingly dangerous, Japan finished the game strongly, and Sugasawa very nearly touched in a volley in the 83rd minute, but they once again conceded a goal against the run of play just a minute later as White breached the defensive line before beating Yamashita from 15 yards.
Sugasawa had one final chance to pull a goal back, but she was denied by Bardsley once again as both sides turned their attention to the knockout stage.
Photos: FIFA via Getty Images
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