England and Japan progress from group D as Ellen White secures a 2-0 win for Phil Neville’s side in Nice. Meanwhile, Scotland crash out following a massive intervention by VAR resulting in a 3-3 draw with Argentina.
A brilliant Ellen White brace was enough for England as they beat a strong Japan side 2-0. England weren’t at their best but they will be more than pleased with their efforts as they secured top spot in the group with three wins from three.
The first half saw England control much of the game, with goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita keeping Japan in the game. She pushed away cracking efforts from Georgia Stanway, Ellen White and Toni Duggan in fantastic style. It took a great pass from Stanway to set White through on goal to open the scoring – once the striker got in on goal, she wasn’t going to miss.
In the second half, England demonstrated a few of their weaknesses as they struggled with ball retention. Loose passes from Keira Walsh, Millie Bright and Toni Duggan in particular led to Japan having more than a few chances to get back into the game. Fortunately, their finishing prowess wasn’t at the same level as England’s and they failed to score.
England were given a great chance to wrap the game up right in the 84th minute when sub Karen Carney played White through on goal again. Just as she did in the first half, she dispatched her effort beautifully, beating the keeper at her near post – reminiscent of her male counterpart, Harry Kane.
The other game in the group saw Scotland take on Argentina in Paris. Realistically, both sides needed a win to have any chance of progressing to the knockout stages. Anything other than a win would send Scotland home while Argentina knew a draw would give them a chance – but they’d need a lot of other things to go their way.
England through, VAR shows up again
It didn’t look like that was going to be the case though as Scotland took the lead early on. Kim Little gave her side the lead in the 19th minute as she latched onto a rebound. They held onto their lead pretty comfortably and at half-time sat in a very healthy position.
Things got even better for Shelley Kerr’s team in the second half as they doubled their lead through Jennifer Beattie, then just 20 minutes later, Erin Cuthbert scored a third. It looked as though Scotland had pulled the performance they so desperately needed out the bag… BUT, things took a very sour turn.
Five minutes after the third Scottish goal, Milagros Menendez pulled Argentina back into the game. As Scottish nerves began to grow, things got even more difficult as Lee Alexander turned the ball into her own net as she flapped at a distance effort from Florencia Bonsegundo.
Then, in injury time, drama struck! Sophie Howard tripped Aldana Cometti as she ran into the box and following advice from the VAR booth, the referee reviewed the incident and pointed to the spot. Florencia Bonsegundo stepped up to take it and blasted her penalty right down the middle – SAVED brilliantly by Lee Alexander.
Play continued and after a few seconds, the ref blew her whistle and pointed to the spot again! Replays showed that Alexander stepped forward off her line as she dived to save the penalty and in accordance with the new rule, the referee ordered a retake. This time, Bonsegundo made no mistake as she hammered her penalty into the back of the net. 3-3.
It finished all square and although Argentina celebrated that, it’s a result that doesn’t really help them all that much either. To progress, Argentina will require draws in both of the games between Thailand and Chile, as well as the one between Cameroon and New Zealand. Scotland, on the other hand, are out.
What all this means is that in the round of 16, England will face the third placed team from either group B, E or F. That means they will face one of China, Cameroon, New Zealand, Thailand or Chile. On the other hand, Japan will face the winner of group E – whichever team wins tomorrows showdown between Netherlands and Canada.