With qualification for the knockout stages of the Women’s World Cup already achieved, England will now seek to top their group by securing a draw or better against Japan in the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice (8pm Wednesday, live on BBC1).
Six points from victories over Scotland and Argentina have put England in pole position to advance as group winners ahead of a Japan side who come into the final round of matches on four points following a draw with Argentina and victory over Scotland.
England will win the group if they avoid defeat, which would put them into the top half of the draw and give them a round-of-16 match against one of the best third-placed finishers. They would then face a potential quarter-final against a group runner-up. Hosts France or competition holders the United States would then most likely await in the final four.
If Japan win, and so grab that path for themselves, England would be in the bottom half of the draw. That would likely provide a round-of-16 tie against the Netherlands (who defeated them en route to winning Euro 2017) or Canada. Then there might be a quarter-final against another group winner, followed by a potential semi-final with world second-ranked Germany.
Either route will eventually see England come up against one of the favourites, but winning the group would give them the best possible chance of matching their runs to the final four at the last World Cup and Euro 2017. From there, anything can happen.
After a frustrating and occasionally sloppy performance in their opener against Scotland, England were more impressive against Argentina on Friday. They created numerous chances to score and only an excellent performance from the opposition goalkeeper, including a save from a first-half penalty from Nikita Parris, prevented them from winning by more than the Jodie Taylor goal on the hour mark that eventually gave them the three points.
Manager Phil Neville expressed his delight at the improved display, and reserved special praise for the goalscorer Taylor, the Golden Boot winner at Euro 2017, who notched her first international goal since April of last year. He and the squad will, though, be under no illusions that much tougher tests will come as the tournament progresses.
Seventh-ranked Japan should, on paper, represent one of them, but there are two reasons why England are the favourites to win on Wednesday. Firstly, they were comfortable 3-0 victors when the two sides last met at the SheBelieves Cup in the United States earlier this year. Secondly, they have failed to convince across their two World Cup matches to date.
Runners up in 2015 and winners in 2011, Japan have made a stuttering start to this year’s tournament. They were surprisingly held to a goalless draw by Argentina in their opener, a match for which they were 1/10 favourites. They then partially recovered with a 2-1 win over Scotland in their second match, with goals from Mana Iwabuchi and Yuika Sugasawa (from the penalty spot). They could still be pipped to second in the group by Argentina.
Japan’s primary problem so far has been creating good shots. Not only did they take five less shots than England in their matches against Argentina and Scotland, but they also took them from much less favourable positions. On average their shots could only be expected to find the back of the net once every 20 times, compared to once every 10 times for England’s efforts.
At time of writing, Japan’s attack has only been the 15th best in the competition to date in terms of the quality and quantity of chances created. They have largely controlled the ball during their matches and given up almost nothing defensively but without a bit more oomph in attack, it is difficult to see them making a deep run.
Our Preview’s England Women vs Japan Betting Tips Verdict
Despite easing themselves in slowly, England have shown enough so far to suggest that they should be fancied to overcome Japan in what is likely to be a relatively low-scoring match and so progress to the last 16 as group winners. Our England vs Japan preview’s betting tip, having studied the odds with the top recommended United Kingdom bookies, is:
- Bet on “England to win to nil” @ best odds of 21/10 (just over 2/1) with Bet365 or BetVictor.
- Check out the odds for outright winner of Women’s World Cup.
Compare England vs Japan Women Betting Odds from Top Bookies