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England hopes to join Japan in knockout round

Jul 5, 2011 - 1:31 AM Augsburg, Germany (Sports Network) - Prior to the start of the Women's World Cup, most observers expected that Tuesday's match between England and Japan would determine which team won Group B and who would go through as the second- placed team.

And although that remains the case, how both teams have gotten to this point has come as somewhat of a surprise.

After securing a tough 2-1 win over New Zealand, Japan put together one of the most impressive showings so far at the tournament, crushing Mexico 4-0 to secure a place in the quarterfinals.

"My players did a great job, especially in the first half, and they were able to express themselves and get a great result," Japan coach Norio Sasaki said after the win over Mexico. "It wasn't our objective to reach the quarterfinals today, but I'm very satisfied."

Japan captain Homare Sawa scored a hat trick in the match as the Japanese stormed out to a 3-0 lead at halftime. And after the game Mexico boss Leonardo Cuellar said he felt that the Asian side looked like "one of the favorites for this World Cup."

England's road has been a bit bumpier as the team was held to a 1-1 draw by Mexico in its opening match and needed to rally from a goal down at halftime to beat New Zealand, 2-1.

But as England defender Alex Scott said following the match with the Kiwis: "We wouldn't be England if we didn't make it hard for ourselves. We dug a hole for ourselves, but we've climbed back out of it and won."

Hope Powell's team has yet to put together a convincing performance in this World Cup, and there is no way they can afford to fall behind to a team like Japan if they want any chance at claiming all three points.

Japan will clinch the top spot in the group with a win or a draw in the match and would then face the second-placed team from Group A, while England needs a win to finish on top of Group B.

England owns a sizeable edge in goal difference over Mexico as well so the team can still advance even with a loss.