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Football
England top Group B
A tight defence helps England defeat Japan 2-0 to join the Asian nation in the quarter-finals of the women's World Cup.
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2011 21:30
All in white Ellen White scores England's opener and helps her team top the group ahead of Japan [GALLO/GETTY] 

England booked their ticket to the quarter-finals of the 2011 women's World Cup on Tuesday with an impressive 2-0 victory over Japan to claim first place in Group B. Japan finish the group as runners-up.

Ellen White gave England the best start possible with a 1-0 lead after 15 minutes and Rachel Yankey sealed the victory after 66 minutes.

In the meantime, the strong English defence held the vaunted Japan attack - nicknamed the Barcelona of women's football - in check the entire game.

"Our game plan was to try to deny them space and we did that. Everybody did that. It was more about work rate and effort," said England coach Hope Powell.

"I think we all worked extremely hard. It was a full team performance. Everyone ran their socks off"

Player of the match Jill Scott

"We just wanted to shut up shop in the middle of the infield and hit them on the counter. Sometimes the plans don't work. But today it did."

England win the group with seven points while Japan, who had already qualified for the final eight, finish with six points.

In the quarters, England will face France who finished second in Group A after losing 4-2 to Germany on Tuesday. The hosts Germany will play Japan.

The victory was England's first ever over Japan following a 2-2 draw at the 2007 World Cup, while Japan have yet to beat a European opponent in nine World Cup matches.

"We had a game plan to stay tight because we knew they moved the ball well. I think we all worked extremely hard. It was a full team performance. Everyone ran their socks off," said Jill Scott, who was named player of the match.

Changes for England

On the loss Japan head coach Norio Sasaki said: "We had some good chances but it always took too long for them to get the shot off. In many scenes my players had good position to shoot but they would pass. We needed to use our chances."

Sasaki kept the same starting XI for the third straight game, but England head coach Hope Powell made four changes to her line-up, with the main move being captain Faye White left out for precautionary reasons in the defence, with Sophie Bradley taking her place.

Veteran Anita Asante made her 2011 World Cup debut in the midfield for Fara Williams, while Karen Carney and White took over from Eniola Aluko and Yankey in attack.

A Japan fan watches his team lose to England but continue on to the next stage of the World Cup [GETTY] 

In front of 20,777 spectators in Augsburg, Japan were the more dangerous side early in the game, going close with a couple of long-range shots after snatching balls in the midfield.

England grabbed the lead after a quarter hour with a superb counter-attacking strike.

Carney picked up the ball deep in midfield and hit a high ball over the Japanese defence and White timed the big bounce perfectly to lob Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori from 22 yards.

It was White's sixth goal in 18 caps for England.

The English defence did a very strong job keeping Japan from pushing the tempo and controlled possession as much as possible after the goal. Bradley proved up to task in the 29th minute, clearing a dangerous loose ball in front of the England goal.

England were nearly 2-0 up after 38 minutes as Jessica Clarke sent a cross into the box where White struck a bicycle kick that nearly looped over Kaihori again, but the keeper just got her hand on the ball and deflected it onto the crossbar and over.

Japan had their clearest chance a minute later but Yukari Kinga blasted over the framework from 13 yards despite England keeper Karen Bardsley being out of position.

Coach Powell swapped Clarke for Yankey at the break as the only substitution at half-time, and it quickly paid off.

Japan were close to equalising four minutes after the re-start but Yuki Nagasto could not quite latch onto Aya Miyama's free-kick, striking wide right.

But England doubled their advantage at the 66-minute mark as a cross from the left side into the box was passed forward by Rachel Unitt to Yankey, who flicked the ball over Kaihori for her 15th goal in 112 caps.

Source:
AFP
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