NICE, France (Reuters) - England maintained their perfect women’s World Cup Group D record when Ellen White’s double gave them a 2-0 win over Japan on Wednesday.
White struck either side of the interval as the Lionesses, who had already qualified for the last 16, topped the pool with nine points, five ahead of second-placed Japan who will next face Canada or the Netherlands.
England coach Phil Neville made eight changes to the team who beat Argentina but it did not cause too much disruption as they dominated a Japan side lacking a cutting edge in attack.
“That’s what rotation is all about. It’s not about throwing 23 players into a hat and pulling out 11,” Neville told a news conference.
“We strategically plan each rotation. Sometimes if you make more than five changes you suffer in the rhythm and flow and I think we did tonight. But I think it was the game we needed to keep us focused.”
White collected a superb through pass from Georgia Stanway before chipping the ball over Ayaka Yamashita to open the scoring in the 15th minute.
Yamashita kept her team’s hopes alive with a fine save to deny Toni Duggan’s volley from a Lucy Bronze cross on the hour.
Stanway and Rachel Daly marshalled the midfield well, although Japan looked potentially dangerous when England lost the ball.
Neville’s side struggled as the game wore on but White sealed the win when she found the back of the net with a clinical finish after being set up by Karen Carney six minutes from time, her third goal of the tournament in two appearances.
England will play a third-placed team in Valenciennes on Sunday for a place in the quarter-finals while Japan will need to improve significantly if they are to reach the last eight.
“If we keep playing like this we will be knocked out in the next round. My players have strengths and abilities but unless they can display them on the pitch we can’t get good results, that’s the reality,” Japan coach Asako Takakura said.
Reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Ed Osmond