FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 – Japan 0-2 England – Tactical Analysis

What many thought to be the Group of Death is now complete with England topping Group D with a stunning nine points from three matches. The Lionness finished their group stage matches with a glorious win over Japan, getting their redemption from 2015 when they were knocked out at the hands of the Japanese in the semi-finals. Here is The Mastermind Site’s tactical analysis for Japan vs. England as Group D comes to a close.


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England set-up in their traditional 4-3-3 formation, except this time it looked far more like a traditional 4-3-3 with Stanway sitting a little deeper than Fran Kirby would normally operate. In attack, Houghton, Bright and Walsh always sat the deepest while Bronze and Stokes were never afraid to branch out and go forward. Jill Scott’s influence on the formation was particularly important as she had a key role to play in both defense and attack, while the front three of Daly, White and Duggan had impacts of varying degrees along a spectrum of good to great to non-existent.

England (4-3-3): Bardsley (GK), Bronze (RB), Houghton (CB), Bright (CB), Stokes (LB), Walsh (DM), Scott (CM), Stanway (CM), Daly (RW), White (CF), Duggan (LW)

Japan (4-3-3): Yamashita (GK), Shimizu (RB), Kumagai (CB), Ichise (CB), Sameshima (LB),  Nakajima (CM), Sugita (CM), Yokoyama (CM), Kobayashi (RW), Iwabuchi (CF), Endo (LW)

Japan meanwhile set up in a 4-3-3 that sometimes transitioned into a 4-4-2 with Yokoyama shifting into the attack. Their passing around the formation was often smooth and controlled and defensively they rarely made rash decisions. When Yuika Sugasawa was introduced into the match, Japan’s formation very much shifted into a 4-4-2 with the Urawa Reds striker going up top alongside Mana Iwabuchi.


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England started the match very well and appeared very composed in possession. Georgia Stanway had a fabulous impact on the opening twenty minutes, often driving forward alongside Jill Scott on the opposite side to create a 4-1-4-1 in attack. Rachel Daly and Lucy Bronze also combined well down the right, while Houghton and Bright were crucial in retaining possession. England primarily played in two ways during the opening minutes of the match, they either looked to play through their midfield triangle and then quickly into Ellen White with through-balls or they attacked down the right-hand side with Scott, Bronze and Daly making the biggest splash. Japan meanwhile were prepared to let the pressure come on to them and play on the counter attack. However, when they regained possession, Japan also played smooth, under control football and worked the ball around their formation as best as they could. In the 9th minute, Keira Walsh gave away a free kick from around 30 yards out, and the game saw its first chance of the match. Yokoyama opted to go for goal and was only denied by a smart stop from Manchester City’s Karen Bardsley. England continued to grow in confidence following this save and their quick attacking scheme was rewarded when Stanway sent Ellen White through on goal. The former Birmingham City striker was clinical for the second time in this tournament and slipped the ball passed Ayaka Yamashita for the first time in the match. England were 1-0 up with the game and group firmly in their hands. In the next ten minutes, Japan looked a bit shell-shocked as Jill Scott’s influence on the match grew and England continued to test Yamashita in goal. Scott was the first to be denied when England’s onslaught started to happen, followed shortly after by a thunderous effort from Georgia Stanway. Following these fantastic chances from England to try and take a 2-0 lead, Japan started to grow back into the match, particularly with one and two touch play in England’s half. England opted not to press Japan and it resulted in the Japanese having a lot of time on the ball to attack. However, the Lioness were well positioned to defend and never had any real trouble as they went into the half 1-0 up.


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At the start of the second half, England looked comfortable in their possession and had no issue passing the ball around. Scott and Stanway continued to push much higher than Keira Walsh and perhaps at times pushed too high as Walsh became outnumbered and struggled to cope with the pressure she was put under. Despite that, England were relatively untested in the first twenty minutes of the half and primarily attacked down the right with Jill Scott, Lucy Bronze and Rachel Daly having the biggest impact. England’s best chance came when Bronze and Daly combined to find Duggan with a cross from the right-hand side into the box. Unfortunately, Toni Duggan couldn’t find the back of the net and sadly it was the Barcelona winger’s only real contribution of the game.

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As the half went on, Japan started to regain more control and Houghton and Bright began to struggle for the first time in the match, particularly in picking up the movements of Yuika Sugasawa and Mana Iwabuchi. In fact, once Sugasawa was introduced in the 61st minute, Japan were a completely different team. The two Japansese strikers often switched places and caused havoc for the illustrious English defense and Karen Bardsley became the busier of the two goalkeepers. However, it was to no avail and the one time they appeared to be in the most danger, Houghton recovered well to make one of the best tackles we’ve seen at the tournament so far.


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Phil Neville tried to respond to Japan’s growing influence by introducing Jade Moore and Karen Carney and this worked to a certain extent. Jade Moore had a better time dealing with the Japanese midfield than Keira Walsh, but Karen Carney looked at times a bit out of place defensively in a central role she might not normally be accustomed to. Despite their introductions into the match, Japan’s influence on the game continued to grow and when the final ten minutes came around, England looked very nervy.  Toni Duggan looked out of sorts all game long and it was a miracle she even hung on until the 81st minute when she was replaced by Nikita Parris. Although Japan had the bulk of the better chances in the second half, Nikita Parris’ substitution for Duggan made an instant impact. On the break Parris picked up the ball toward the top of Japan’s half and England continued their brilliant triangle passing as Scott found Karen Carney who slipped Ellen White in for her second of the game. Both of White’s goals were left-footed, demonstrating just how efficient of a striker she is.

England still looked shaky as the clock continued to strike toward the 90th minute and Houghton had to nearly stop herself from fouling Sugasawa, letting her through on goal and being bailed out by a fantastic toe save from Karen Bardsley. That would be Japan’s last chance to grab a goal and England hung onto their lead, miraculously keeping a clean sheet. Karen Bardsley made a total of 4 saves, equal to that of Yamashita, and despite their trouble tracking the runs of the Japanese players at times, all four of England’s defenders played very well. Stokes looked decent in her first game back from injury although didn’t play up to the standard set by Alex Greenwood, but Bright and Houghton were solid in possession and the right-sided combination of Houghton and Bronze continues to be one of the strongest right-sided defensive pairings in the world.

All things considered, the match was pretty even in all regards. England had slightly more possession while Japan had slightly more shots. England were more aggressive and physical in their play, while also more direct. Japan on the other hand were a bit slower in their passing and took until the final thirty minutes of the game to truly get going. Once they did get going, they looked the far more dangerous team. The key difference was while Japan could not capitalize on their chances, England and Ellen White were clinical. With this match, England remained top of the group with a stunning nine points from three matches, conceding just one goal. They now go into the Round of 16 and a match-up against a third-place team, in really good form.

So that’s it for our Tactical Analysis for England vs. Japan as we head into the Round of 16. Be sure to check out more Women’s World Cup articles right here including our tactical analysis for England 2-1 Scotland. See you next time!


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