England lift SheBelieves Cup trophy for first time
Lionesses have participated in each edition since 2016
Hosts USA finish as runners-up, Japan third and Brazil fourth
England’s progression under head coach Phil Neville took a significant step forward as the Lionesses lifted the SheBelieves Cup, a FIFA Women’s World Cup™ tune-up event, following an emphatic 3-0 victory over Japan on the final matchday.
Defending champions and hosts USA finished the three-matchday event as runners-up, with Japan in third and Brazil fourth.
FIFA.com takes a look at some of the talking points for each team at the conclusion of the event as the Women's World Cup comes sharper into focus.
2019 SheBelieves Cup Final Standings
Phil Neville's Lionesses showed that the mental fortitude that was on display at Canada 2015 is still intact. They came from behind twice to either win or salvage a draw, and in one of those instances it was in front of a 22,000-strong crowd supporting USA.
Their final matchday fixture against Japan had added significance as the two sides will meet in Group D at France 2019. England overwhelmed the young Japanese side with three well-taken goals in the first half from Lucy Staniforth, Karen Carney and Beth Mead.
"There's a belief - it's hard to put my finger on it, but it feels really good," said Carney. "I think no one's really fazed by anything. This group seems to have confidence. The manager, he demands more from us. We went in at half-time three-nil up and he still wanted more and more from us. It just feels really, really good."
While Jill Ellis' USA side that won the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada prided itself on a rock-solid defence, the 2019 version in France will perhaps show more emphasis in the attacking side of the game. Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath continue to be consistent attacking threats for the Women's World Cup holders.
Morgan scored her 99th career goal during the SheBelieves Cup, and will most likely begin France 2019 as one of seven Americans to score at least 100 goals. Heath scored two goals during the tournament, including the winner against Brazil, and now moves to 27 career goals, while Rapinoe's impressive strike against England was her 43rd international goal.
Ellis will want her team to concede less goals than they did during SheBelieves, with several coming from preventable errors. "I've already come out of this tournament with less question marks now because of some of the personnel takeaways and different things we've seen, and that feels good," she said in her post-match press conference on Tuesday. "Now we have even more clarity."
Head coach Asako Takakura showed a lot of faith, as she has throughout her career, in giving youth a chance. Several of Nadeshiko’s youngsters made their senior debuts at SheBelieves, including FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup 2018 stand-outs Moeka Minami and Jun Endo. Playing against the likes of Marta, Alex Morgan and Jodie Taylor will only aide their development.
Yuka Momiki had a particularly bright tournament - the 22-year-old registered two goals and two assists and will be a serious option on the right wing for Takakura.
While their one-side final day defeat by England will no doubt be a disappointment, they will be encouraged by their showings against USA and Brazil, when in both cases, they scored late goals to put points on the board.
Brazil struggled to close out games on two occasions where the match was even at 1-1 in the second half only for Vadao's charges to concede late goals. Marta was unable to find the goal in three matches, while Andressa and Debinha provided their only two of the tournament.
Like USA, Brazil seem to have some question marks when it comes to defensive and goalkeeping positions. Aline Reis was trusted with the gloves in all three games, but she had two caps to her name at the start of SheBelieves 2019.
Formiga turned 41 during the competition and, incredibly, still seems to be one of the first names on the teamsheet. She could become the first footballer, male or female, to appear at seven World Cups in France.
The FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™ is just three months away. Individual tickets go on sale 7 March!