- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Hege Riise praised Ellen White after the striker scored her third goal in the competition as a patient Team GB ensured their passage to the knockout stage with a defeat of Japan.
“It was a great goal,” the manager said, of the headed winner midway through the second half.
“That’s the small margin you need when you play a team like Japan, the detail that an excellent player has. That moment is gamechanging. She’s a top scorer, she’s always looking to score goals.”
The win, in the remarkably cool Sapporo Dome, means Team GB go into their final game of Group E on Tuesday, against Canada in Kashima, to the east of Tokyo, needing a draw to top the group. Defeat would mean they finish second behind their opponents.
Japan must beat Chile and will need Team GB to beat Canada in order to clinch second place. Should the hosts draw they will have to hope they finish as one of the two best third-placed teams.
Riise shifted things around to attempt to combat the technical strength of Japan. In came the Arsenal centre-back Leah Williamson for Chelsea’s Millie Bright, with the former much more comfortable with the ball at her feet. Sophie Ingle, Team GB’s sole Welsh representative, was brought in alongside Keira Walsh as part of a midfield two in a 4-2-3-1 to try to give Team GB the edge in central areas.
The effect, though, was to narrow the play. The potent width and smart link-up play between the midfield and forward lines that had been so effective in a 4-3-3 against Chile on Wednesday was stifled by solid performances from the Japan full-backs.
They forced Lauren Hemp, Nikita Parris – starting in place of Georgia Stanway – and the overlapping Lucy Bronze inside repeatedly and isolated Kim Little with the two sitting midfielders.
It was the wide play of the hosts that looked the more threatening. With the 20-year-old Hemp struggling to track back, her Manchester City teammate Demi Stokes was run ragged by midfield pair of Yuzuho Shiokoshi and Emi Nakajima on the left.
Japan, too, had made a host of changes to the team that laboured in their opening game, a 1-1 draw with Canada. Five players made way including the new Arsenal striker Mana Iwabuchi.
Zambia striker Barbra Banda (pictured) netted her second hat-trick in as many games to lead the scoring charts but her team stayed winless in Group F after a 4-4 draw with China. For the second game in a row, Banda was not even the top scorer on the pitch as Wang Shuang scored all four goals for China.
The Netherlands, who hammered Zambia 10-3 in their first game, drew 3-3 with Brazil. Vivianne Miedema, scorer of four goals against Zambia, got another two with Debinha and Marta on target for Brazil, who then took the lead through Ludmila. Dominique Janssen got the equaliser with 10 minutes to play to keep the Dutch top of Group F on goal difference.
In Group E, two goals from Janine Beckie helped Canada edge past Chile with a 2-1 win. Canada can top the group with a victory over Team GB in their final match.
“We were a little bit surprised about the changes,” said Riise. “Bringing on those new players, they had momentum in bits of the first half.
“It’s the same kind of technical players that are outstanding in the combination play. They probably lack a bit of connection up top.”
In a tactical match, with each team trying to out-strategise the other, Japan had the edge in the first half and by the half-hour mark Team GB found themselves increasingly pressed back.
A delightful bursting run from Hemp before she was fouled offered some respite to the pressure and time to regroup.
“The Japanese midfield is so technical,” said Walsh. “In the first half we were a bit tentative and probably weren’t on the front foot so much, but in the second half it was much better.
“We settled and got in their face and were much more aggressive. It’s another really great win.”
Frustrated but focused, Team GB emerged after the break with renewed purpose, but it was short-lived until the introduction of Caroline Weir for Ingle, and the restoration of the midfield three, on the hour.
“We put Sophie in more as a bit of a defending player. That worked well,” said Riise.
“Attack-wise we lacked a little more. But we know that could happen. I feel like the connections got better and better. That’s what we need to get used to. That will happen during the tournament.
“In the second half, we changed formation a little bit and it came out well, we controlled the game much better.”
With the added impetus of Scotland’s Weir on the pitch Team GB went on the hunt. Again the source of the breakthrough was familiar. Little, now seeing more of the ball, played to an overlapping Bronze whose cross found White to head in.
It was another critical goal from the World Cup bronze-boot winner with England, this time when Team GB needed it most and it lifts the pressure on an intense tournament run.
Riise will now have the luxury of bringing in some of the players yet to feature, though she will have to balance that with a desire to top the group.
“We are very happy about two wins now. It puts us in a good position, able to rest players and recover well,” she said.