Ellen White’s brace gave England a comfort 2-0 win over arch rivals Japan here on Wednesday and helped the last FIFA Women’s World Cup third-placer seal a top finish in Group D of France 2019.
Georgia Stanway slotted a brilliant through and White sent the ball into the bottom corner in the 14th minute, just having enough pace on it to outrange Japanese captain Saki Kumagai’s onrushing effort.
The Birmingham City striker’s second goal of the game came with six minute from time, when second-half substitute Karen Carney found space between Japan’s defense. White raced onto it to slide the ball in.
It made the 30-year-old, who happened to have scored all her three goals in this tournament in Nice, the seventh player to have scored three or more so far this summer in France.
“Contributing with two goals is a dream, really,” commented White, who was elected the Player of the Match. “I’m surrounded by talented players on the pitch.”
“For us, it was about winning the group – that’s what we’ve done – and now we look forward to the round of 16,” she said.
Earlier in the evening, a ninth minute free kick saw Kumi Yokoyama make a direct shooting effort to destine for the top corner before England’s Manchester City goalie Karen Bardsley tipped it onto the crossbar.
Following White’s breakthrough, two big saves from Ayaka Yamashita prevented Japan from further trailing, as Jill Scott drilled to force a dive at 18 and her Manchester City teammate Stanway powered a curling shot one minute later.
More heroic saves were performed by Yamashita while the 2011 title winners came out fighting in the second half, creating more chances and pushing England back for long, but the Lionesses stayed in the game till White took her chance.
“England are a very good team, very powerful,” Japan’s coach Asako Takakura said. “Their attacks were very quick and we were trying to respond to that.”
“We conceded a goal in the first half because of error, and then we backed off a little because of that. But in the second half we did manage to gain our composure but unfortunately we couldn’t score,” she added.
The Lionesses, packed with Manchester City players in their 23-strong squad, needed just a draw to finish on top, as both England and Japan had made sure of knockout spots even before Wednesday’s game.
With the 2-0 victory, England advanced to the last 16 as the group leaders with three wins from as many matches. Japan finished second on four points, having beat Scotland and tied with Argentina in the previous games.
Meanwhile, Scotland drew 3-3 with Argentina in Parc des Princes, after a stoppage time VAR penalty cost the Scott a victory and saw them eliminated with one point from three games.
Phil Neville’s England will now face a third-placed finisher in the next round – either China (Group B), or Cameroon or New Zealand (Group E), or Chile or Thailand (Group F).
Their opponents will be determined on Thursday when Groups E and F conclude, and the match will take place on Sunday in Valenciennes.