AUGSBURG, Germany (AP) – England turned the threat of first-round elimination into Group B victory with a 2-0 win over Japan to reach the Women's World Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday.
After a lackluster first two games, England was spectacular in its decisive game. After 15 minutes, Sophie Bradley sent a deep ball from her half toward Ellen White, who forward spotted goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori off her line. She let the ball bounce once and lobbed it over Kaihori with exquisite precision from 21 meters out.
In the 66th, England came up with a second good goal, when Rachel Unitt shrugged off several Japanese defenders to set up substitute forward Rachel Yankey for a delicate chip and the insurance goal.
Japan was supposed to be all about skill while England relied on power and push, but with an inspired performance and great goals, the Europeans disproved it.
With the tournament on the line, England was aggressive and played with passion throughout, while Japan rarely thrilled the crowd of 20,777.
After the game, the players united behind a Japanese banner saying ''To our friends around the world - Thank you for your support,'' recognizing the global support in the wake of the Japanese earthquake in March.
England had everything to play for. A big loss could eliminate it from the tournament while a win over Japan would give it the right to avoid the top team of Group A in the quarters.
The early goal composed the English squad and from then on they always looked more like group winners than first-round losers.
Japan started with the same lineup that set it up as a tournament favorite, while England made changes in four places to rev up their campaign.
In balmy late afternoon temperatures of 22C (72F) 20,777 Japan found it tough to get its rhythm going.
After her first goal, While almost scored one of equal brilliance in the 38th minute when she had to go back for a cross, yet swung in an overhead volley which Kaihori could barely tip onto the bar and over.
Japan sought a way back into the game in the second half and Yuki Nagasato slid in behind defenders on a 49th minute freekick but her deflection went just wide.
Japan: Ayumi Kaihori, Aya Sameshima, Saki Kumagai, Azusa Iwashimizu, Yukari Kinga, Aya Miyama, Homare Sawa, Mizuho Sakaguchi (Mana Iwabuchi, 75), Shinobu Ohno (Nahomi Kawasumi, 82), Yuki Nagasato, Kozue Ando (Karina Maruyama, 56).
England: Karen Bardsley, Rachel Unitt, Sophie Bradley , Casey Stoney, Alex Scott, Jill Scott, Jesse Clarke (Rachel Yankey, 46), Anita Asante, Kelly Smith (Eniola Aluko, 62), Ellen White (Laura Bassett, 90), Karen Carney.