England clinch SheBelieves Cup with win over Japan

England won the SheBelieves Cup following an emphatic 3-0 victory over Japan in Florida.

Phil Neville’s side secured silverware in style thanks to first-half goals from Lucy Staniforth, Karen Carney and Beth Mead.

However, the Lionesses’ success came at a cost as Izzy Christiansen limped off injured with the start of the World Cup only three months away.

The Lyon midfielder was reduced to tears while receiving treatment for possible knee and ankle problems suffered during a hefty collision with Japan defender Risa Shimizu.

England, after beating Brazil and drawing with world champions the United States earlier in the four-team tournament, needed victory in Tuesday’s winner-takes-all encounter to lift the trophy.

They controlled the opening stages at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa and raced into a three-goal lead inside half an hour.

Attacking midfielder Staniforth provided the 11th-minute opener, collecting a flicked pass from Jodie Taylor and advancing to the edge of the D before unleashing a low shot into the bottom right corner for her second international goal.

Taylor, who had earlier been narrowly off target after turning in the box, then laid on the second for experienced winger Carney.

A long throw from Lucy Bronze freed Taylor on the right and she hooked the ball back to leave Carney with a simple headed finish from inside the six-yard box.

Japan have been drawn in Group D alongside England for this summer’s World Cup in France and, on this evidence, should hold little fear for Neville’s team.

The side ranked eighth in the world fell further behind on the half-hour mark.

After being released on the right by a superb raking pass from Keira Walsh, Mead cut inside and fired a left-footed effort past Japan goalkeeper Erina Yamane at the near post.

Christiansen’s evening was then cut short in painful circumstances, before the hard-working Taylor wasted a chance to put her name on the scoresheet by producing a tame finish having broken clear.

Japan improved fractionally after the break, with Rikako Kobayashi dragging a shot off target from the edge of the box and fellow substitute Yuka Momiki later dinking wide.

Kumi Yokoyama could also have reduced the deficit, before England’s Chioma Ubogagu headed over from Ellen White’s cross at the other end.

Striker White then selfishly opted to shoot – a wayward finish which went well over – with two team-mates waiting to be slipped in on goal.

It mattered little in the end as England, runners-up in 2018, comfortably saw the game out to win the competition for the first time.

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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