- SheBelieves Cup
- Wednesday 6 March
- Raymond James Stadium
- Tampa, Florida
England Women blitzed Japan 3-0 to win the SheBelieves Cup for the first time and set down a marker ahead of this summer’s World Cup.
First-half goals from Lucy Staniforth, Karen Carney and Beth Mead did the damage as Phil Neville’s side ripped apart the 2011 world champions.
And the victory allowed the Lionesses to usurp Japan at the top of the round-robin tournament, with seven points from their three matches, and collect their first piece of silverware since the Cyprus Cup in 2015.
The result – and more so the performance – might also have landed a psychological blow, with England due to meet Japan in the group stages of France 2019 in June.
Neville made eight changes from the 2-2 draw with USA, with a first start for Staniforth and Arsenal’s Leah Williamson, who partnered Steph Houghton in the centre of defence.
But the changes did nothing to disrupt the momentum from Saturday night with England, runners-up in this competition last season, in full control from the off.
And after early sighters for Houghton and Jodie Taylor, the Lionesses went ahead through Staniforth’s 12th-minute strike.
She collected a cute, slide-rule pass from Taylor and bent home a low, 20-yard shot into the bottom corner.
It was 2-0 less than 10 minutes later and it was Taylor again with the assist. The Euro 2017 top scorer latched on to Lucy Bronze’s throw-in, raced to the touchline and dinked the ball into the six-yard box where Carney was on hand to nod home.
The win – and destination of the SheBelieves Cup – was effectively confirmed on the half-hour mark when Mead collected Keira Walsh’s delicious long-range diagonal, before cutting inside and smashing the ball beyond Erina Yamane for her second goal of the tournament to cap a dominant first half.
The only downside to the opening 45 was a nasty-looking injury to Isobel Christiansen which forced the midfielder to be replaced by Georgia Stanway.
Japan, eighth in the FIFA rankings and runners-up at the 2015 World Cup, did improve after the break, fashioning four decent chances before the hour mark.
Hina Sugita headed just wide with 12 minutes remaining while Rikako Kobayashi forced Carly Telford into her first real save of the match late on.
But, in truth, England saw out the game fairly comfortably, allowing Houghton to get her hands on the prestigious SheBelieves Cup.
The Lionesses’ build-up to France 2019 continues with four testing home matches, against Canada and Spain in April, Euro 2017 runners-up Denmark in May and New Zealand on Saturday 1 June.
Tickets for all four matches are on sale now with children able to attend for just £1.
England (4-1-4-1): 13 Carly Telford (Chelsea); 2 Lucy Bronze (Lyon), 5 Steph Houghton (capt; Manchester City), 15 Leah Williamson (Arsenal), 3 Alex Greenwood (Manchester United); 4 Keira Walsh (Manchester City); 22 Beth Mead (Arsenal), 23 Lucy Staniforth (Birmingham City), 8 Isobel Christiansen (Lyon), 20 Karen Carney (Chelsea); 9 Jodie Taylor (Seattle Reign).
Substitutes: 19 Georgia Stanway (Manchester City) for Christiansen 39, 18 Ellen White (Birmingham City) for Taylor 51, 14 Gemma Bonner (Manchester City) for Walsh 60, 11 Toni Duggan (Barcelona) for Carney 66, 16 Chioma Ubogagu (Orlando Pride) for Mead 66, 10 Fran Kirby (Chelsea) for Staniforth 81.
Substitutes not used: 1 Karen Bardsley (Manchester City); 6 Abbie McManus (Manchester City), 7 Nikita Parris (Manchester City), 12 Demi Stokes (Manchester City), 15 Leah Williamson (Arsenal), 17 Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), 21 Mary Earps (Wolfsburg).
Goals: Staniforth 12, Carney 23, Mead 30
Bookings: Houghton 85
Head coach: Phil Neville
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images