England rout Japan to take SheBelieves title

England’s Toni Duggan prepares to kick the ball during a 3-0 victory over Japan to clinch the SheBelieves Cup title on Tuesday (AFP pic)

MIAMI: England laid down a marker for this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup on Tuesday, defeating Japan 3-0 to clinch victory in the four-nation SheBelieves Cup friendly tournament in Florida.

First-half goals from Lucy Staniforth, Karen Carney and Beth Mead sealed a comfortable win for Phil Neville’s side at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium as they build towards the Women’s World Cup in France.

The result means England, who had beaten Brazil in their opening game last week and drawn against the United States on Saturday, were guaranteed to finish on top of the round-robin standings. The United States face Brazil in the final game of the tournament later Tuesday.

More significantly, the win hands England a psychological boost against the Japanese, who defeated the Lionesses 2-1 in the 2015 World Cup semi-finals. The two teams will meet again in Group D of this year’s World Cup on June 19.

On Tuesday’s evidence, England will head to the World Cup bristling with confidence after wrapping up an impressive SheBelieves campaign with an emphatic victory.

Knowing a win would be good enough to take the title, England’s women effectively sealed the outcome with a devastating first-half performance that saw them go 3-0 up within the first 30 minutes.

Jodie Taylor was the first to test the Japanese defence after 11 minutes, shooting just wide of goalkeeper Erina Yamane’s post.

The English did not have long to wait to take the lead, however, when a minute later Taylor’s clever reverse pass sent Staniforth in on goal.

The Birmingham City midfielder still had plenty to do but calmly glided past the Japan defence before drilling a low shot past Yamane into the bottom corner.

Taylor was involved once more for England’s second goal on 23 minutes, crossing for the unmarked Carney, who coolly nodded in from close range.

The pick of the English goals came in the 30th minute, when a magnificent 50-yard pass from Keira Walsh sent Mead racing clear down the right flank.

The Arsenal winger cut inside and, after looking around to survey her passing options, chose to go for goal herself and lashed in a thumping left-foot finish to beat Yamane at the near-post.

England continued to create chances in the second half, but eased up noticeably as the game wore on and were unable to add to their tally.