Top spot in Group B is up for grabs in Augsburg when England face Japan on Tuesday evening. The Nadeshiko are favourites, needing only a draw to face the runners-up of Group A in the quarter-finals. However, England also need a point to make certain of their progression, as defeat combined with a Mexico victory over New Zealand with a significant swing in goal difference could see them heading home.
Memories of China 2007 entered the mind when England and Japan were drawn together last November. Four years ago in Shanghai, Aya Miyama was the hero for Japan as her free-kick deep into injury time earned the Asian side a 2-2 draw. England looked to have won the game after Kelly Smith's two quick-fire goals on 81 and 83 minutes, but Miyama, who had earlier fired Japan in front from another free-kick, came to their rescue.
Both teams are unbeaten coming into this game, although Japan are the in-form side having defeated New Zealand 2-1 and Mexico 4-0, with Homare Sawa grabbing a hat-trick. England, meanwhile have looked distinctively off-colour in their opening group matches so far and had to come from behind against the Kiwis to take the three points. However, there were signs in the second half of that match that Hope Powell’s side were coming back into form and a win over Japan would be a timely boost going into the knockout stages.
0 – Japan have never beaten a European side at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in eight matches and they have failed to register a single point in all five of their final group games in previous editions of the tournament. However, England have never beaten Japan in women’s football.
"I think we need to improve our all round game. We haven't hit the mark yet, we know that but you also have to give credit to the teams we've played. Every game is tough. We just need to keep our composure, hopefully we can relax a little bit more, enjoy it and express ourselves against Japan," Hope Powell, England coach.
“This is an important game for us before going to the next stage. It’s important for us to play against England as we did against Mexico, then we can gain confidence and produce a result whoever we play in the quarter-finals. I hope we can continue playing our brand of football, and not worrying about the result,” Norio Sasaki, Japan coach.