NICE, FRANCE – Though their place in the knockout stage is already guaranteed, Nadeshiko Japan are determined to finish on top of Group D at the FIFA Women’s World Cup by beating current leader England, forward Yuika Sugasawa said Tuesday.
The two sides meet Wednesday in their final group-stage match of the monthlong tournament in France, with the top spot and a seemingly smoother path through the elimination round at stake.
Japan needs a victory to move from second to first place, while a draw will be good enough for England to win the group.
“We are definitely aiming to move into first place,” Sugasawa said.
The 28-year-old Urawa Reds attacker, who scored from the penalty spot in Japan’s 2-1 defeat of Scotland in Rennes, said the Asian champions will need quick passing and player movement to overcome England at Stade de Nice.
“(England) have height and physical strength. Rather than trying to beat them one-on-one, we need a coordinated effort, with a lot of players involved around the ball,” Sugasawa said.
After opening the tournament with a sluggish scoreless draw against Argentina, Asako Takakura’s side gave a much-improved performance in their win over the Scots last Friday.
Training staff are monitoring the condition of winger Yui Hasegawa (ankle) and defender Rumi Utsugi (calf). The two have spent time training separately from the rest of the squad as they prepare in Nice.
England, managed by former Manchester United and Everton stalwart Phil Neville, is among the favorites to lift the trophy in France. The Lionesses have a maximum six points from their two group matches so far.
The world No. 3 side steamrolled seventh-ranked Japan 3-0 on the way to winning the SheBelieves Cup in the United States in March.