England win SheBelieves Cup for first time with victory over Japan

Highlights: England 3-0 Japan

England won the SheBelieves Cup for the first time after thrashing Japan in their final match in Tampa.

Jodie Taylor set up Lucy Staniforth to fire England into an early lead with a fine low finish from outside the area.

Karen Carney doubled the lead when she nodded in from Taylor’s lofted cut-back before Beth Mead fired in a third before half-time.

England also beat Brazil and drew with hosts USA to ensure they topped the four-team round-robin competition.

It is the first time England have won the invitational tournament which was introduced in 2016, having lost to world champions USA in last year’s final.

England, ranked fourth in the world, also meet Japan again in the group stages of this summer’s World Cup in France, which kicks off on 7 June.

Ruthless first half from England

‘Pass of the tournament’ helps Mead score England’s third

Japan knocked England out in the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2015 but failed to impose themselves following a dominant first-half display from the Lionesses.

Taylor lit up the show, using her pace to cause the defence problems and showing her class to set up Staniforth with an excellent pass on the turn.

The Euro 2017 golden boot winner then lifted an inch-perfect ball into Carney to pick up a second assist within 23 minutes.

But Keira Walsh’s sensational diagonal ball set up the goal of the night as Mead took it in her stride before cutting into the box and firing into the back of the net.

That rounded off a near-perfect opening half, with Izzy Christiansen’s injury the only negative for Phil Neville’s side.

England’s SheBelieves Cup results
Japan 0-3 England (Tuesday, 5 March)
USA 2-2 England (Saturday, 2 March)
England 2-1 Brazil (Wednesday, 27 February)

Japan came out of the blocks with more intensity in the second half and came close through Rikako Kobayashi and Aya Sameshima.

Substitute Yuka Momiki should have scored just before the hour but she dragged her shot wide from close-range under pressure from England keeper Carly Telford.

Telford was also forced to tip Kobayashi’s half-volley over the bar after Hina Sugita’s header bounced inches wide of the left post.

Neville’s substitutions disrupted rhythm after the break, but England’s lead was never in any danger as Japan failed to match the clinical shooting the Lionesses displayed in the first half.

‘There’s bigger things to come’ – Neville

England manager Phil Neville speaking to BBC Sport: “It was a sensational performance. I wasn’t that bothered before the tournament whether we won or lost, I just wanted to see an improvement and we go home knowing we are definitely in the right direction.

“We just keep listening to USA, Japan and Brazil talk about how good we are. But we remain humble, have fun and enjoy moments like this.

“You don’t get many chances to get your hands on a trophy. It is my first as a manager so I am just going to enjoy it. It’s great for everybody but I think we have bigger things to aim for. We will enjoy it but tomorrow we will look forward to the April camp.”

Phil Neville made eight changes to the starting XI following the 2-2 draw with Brazil

‘A big statement’ – analysis

Former England forward Sue Smith on BBC TV: “That will send out a statement to the rest of the world. That was a fantastic, professional performance. England had to defend in the second half and they did. It was brilliant from an England perspective.”

Ex-Arsenal and England international Alex Scott on BBC TV: “In the friendly games we have been wasteful in front of goal but the goals we have scored in this tournament have been fantastic. We have been more clinical.

“Japan’s defending could have been better but England have improved so I want to look at those positives. It’s that winning feeling. There are so many positives to take from this tournament and you get to pick up silverware.”

England defender Laura Bassett on BBC TV: “For England to go over to the USA and win this makes a big statement and ticks a lot of boxes… Japan were unlucky not to get a goal but it was great for England to keep a clean sheet.”


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