The final round of group matches continues tomorrow in group D with Japan taking on England and Scotland locking horns with Argentina. With both sides likely to progress to the next round with only a draw, the clash at Stade de Nice has less riding on it than many of the other group stage finales in France, but the title of group winners, and with it a lower-ranked knockout stage opponent, remains an attractive prize. While Japan lie second in the group standings on four points, England have earned a perfect six after registering narrow wins over Scotland and Argentina but the Lioness’ performances in the competition thus far have left a little to be desired, particularly in the final third.
The Nadeshiko knocked the Lionesses out of the 2015 World Cup in Canada at the semi-final stage, but Phil Neville’s side picked up a one-sided victory over Japan just three months ago, scoring three goals in the opening half-hour at the US-hosted SheBelieves Cup tournament won by England. Japan’s line-up was largely experimental on that occasion and that result is unlikely to weigh on their minds here. Japan were too good for Scotland last time out but had to hold on for the win at the end after failing to put the Scots away and almost allowed them to snatch a point. The Japanese took a deserved lead through Mana Iwabuchi in the 22nd minute before Yuika Sugasawa doubled her side’s lead from the spot before half-time but a late Scotland goal made it a nervy end to the match for the Nadeshikos. Japan can still win the group but will need to beat England whilst a point will ensure second place and with that in mind, the Japanese are expected to field their strongest line-up in a bid to make the last 16.
Given a place in the knockout stages is already assured, it could well be a rotated England side that takes to the pitch at the Allianz Riviera. A point against the Japanese will be enough to secure top spot and see them secure a potentially easier path in the next round. England made it two wins from two at the Women’s World Cup as they secured a hard-fought victory over a stubborn Argentina side and are heavy favorites to top Group D as a result. Jodie Taylor scored her first goal in 14 months as Phil Neville’s side managed to grind out a 1-0 victory to top the group and ensure their progression to the last 16 but will want to qualify as group winners. Jodie Taylor should retain her spot after returning to the starting line-up against Argentina to great effect despite a tricky patch of form since winning the Golden Boot award at Euro 2017.In a big boost for the English, forward Toni Duggan is set to be declared fit after sitting out the opening two matches with a thigh issue.
In the other match of the day, Scotland and Argentina will be literally fighting for their lives as both teams will be going out to secure victory. Neither of them is likely to finish in the top-two and only maximum points will place either team in the best position to advance from the group. Of course, they would have to rely on favorable results from other groups.
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