Women’s World Cup: Italy dominates, Japan hangs on, England persists

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Japan got back on track while Scotland was the first side officially eliminated from the tournament as the Asian side clung to a 2-1 victory in Rennes. Japan dominated the first half and took a 2-0 lead into the break on goals by attackers Mana Iwabuchi and Yuika Sugasawa but they were forced to hang on late as Lana Clelland curled one in to make for an intriguing finish.

Following an opening-round 0-0 draw with Argentina that left a powerful side with more questions than answers, Japan was ruthless in the first half as Iwabuchi opened the scoring 23 minutes in as her right-footed blast found the roof of the net just under the crossbar from outside the box. They had a 2-0 lead 14 minutes later as a speculative counter-attack saw Rachel Corsie bundle over Sugasawa defending a long-ball, and the Japanese striker was on hand to dispatch the penalty.

Scotland was happy to hear the halftime whistle, and they came out stronger after the break but Clelland’s curler proved only a consolation as Japan found victory for the first time this tournament. As two-time finalists in the last two World Cups, Japan breathed a sign of relief following a much better attacking effort thank their opening game and moved atop Group D for the time being, although that would not last long as England reclaimed the lead. Scotland, meanwhile, suffered its second one-goal defeat and is still without a point heading into its final match, eliminated officially as England claimed victory later in the day.

In the second game of the day, Italy secured qualification to the knockout stages with a commanding Group C lead after dismantling Jamaica 5-0 in Reims, the site of the United States’ demolition of Thailand. A hat-trick from Juventus striker Cristiana Girelli led the way, with substitute Aurora Galli bagging a pair to finish things off.

Already with two goals by halftime on a 2-0 lead, Girelli secured her hat-trick just seconds after halftime with a far-post header that trickled over the line following a fabulous long-distance delivery from Manuela Giugliano. Girelli becomes the first Italian to score a Women’s World Cup hat-trick, marking the country’s return to the event after a 20-year absence in thunderous fashion.

Galli came on in the 65th minute and did excellent work off the bench, firing an absolute howitzer for her first in the 71st minute before tacking on the finale with nine minutes left.

Finally, England weathered a disappointing first half to come away victorious over Argentina. The South American side held England goalless in the first half in similar fashion to their opening match against Japan, with the European group dominant but unable to find the back of the net, even seeing a poor 28th minute penalty from Nikita Parris saved. After halftime, it was more of the same early as Vanina Correa made an absolutely stunning close-range save on a messy England set-piece.

Argentina held through the hour mark, but were undone right there as the Lionesses broke through via Jodie Taylor on the break. After a rare Argentina attack, England countered and a stellar cross from Beth Mead evaded the racing defenders and a diving Correa, and Taylor was there for the tap-in.

England failed to score again, with Paris heading over on 71 minutes before they appeared to take their foot off the gas, but in was still a dominating wire-to-wire performance despite the thin scoreline, as they topped Argentina on the shot count 15-1. England’s Abbie McManus out-passed Argentina by herself, completing 111 distributions to Argentina’s 96.

England secured a place in the knockout stages with the win, while Argentina is still in the mix but need a win against Scotland plus some help from above.