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England tops Japan to win Group B at WWC

Jul 5, 2011 - 8:40 PM Augsburg, Germany (Sports Network) - Japan entered Tuesday's Group B finale with two wins from two games and was coming off one of the most impressive performances at the Women's World Cup in its last match.

England, meanwhile, had struggled to take four points from its first two contests. But on Tuesday, Hope Powell's team finally put together a convincing performance that saw the Three Lions claim a 2-0 win over Japan to finish on top of the group.

"We're really looking forward to the quarterfinal. We're stronger than 2007," Powell said. "I have to pay compliments to my team, they closed Japan down well and put them under pressure. We scored the goals at the right time. We have a squad of 21 and we will need all of them."

Ellen White's first-half goal gave England the lead at halftime, and substitute Rachel Yankey doubled the advantage 25 minutes from time, with goalkeeper Karen Bardsley keeping a clean sheet by expertly handling a number of tough crosses.

England will now face France in the quarterfinals on Saturday, while Japan also goes through from Group B and meets Group A winner Germany the same day.

"We need to learn to make better decisions going forward and fight until the end if we want to win," Japan coach Norio Sasaki said. "I thought England had a bit more luck than us, but this was certainly a positive experience for the future - and one which will help us if we are to attain our goal of reaching the final."

The opening 15 minutes were fairly quiet until a good long ball from Karen Carney sprung White in behind the Japanese defense.

Goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori was a bit off her line when White got to the ball near the edge of the penalty area, and the English forward floated her shot over the head of Kaihori and into the net.

Japan's potent attack, which put four goals past Mexico in its last game, was unusually quiet as the best chance for the team came when Kozue Ando had her shot blocked near the goal line by England defender Sophie Bradley midway through the opening half.

White nearly doubled her tally in the 38th minute with an overhead kick from the middle of the penalty area that forced Kaihori to tip the ball onto the crossbar.

It was a nice save from the Japanese keeper and it kept her team in the match, but that changed in the 65th minute when Rachel Unitt delivered a left-wing cross into the area for Yankey, who took a touch toward the net and lifted the ball over the diving Kaihori from a tight angle to seal the win.