England and Italy reach last 16 as Japan get World Cup bid back on track
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England laboured to a 1-0 win over Argentina and Italy routed Jamaica 5-0 as both teams qualified for the knockout stages of the Women's World Cup on Friday, while 2011 champions Japan topped Scotland 2-1 to give their campaign a shot in the arm.
England's Jodie Taylor scored the only goal as they broke the deadlock against Argentina just past the hour to secure a 1-0 win and book a place in the last 16.
Nikita Parris had a first-half penalty saved by Argentina's Vanina Correa, but Taylor got on the end of Beth Mead's cross in the 62nd minute to give her side their second straight win.
The Lionnesses now need only a point against Japan in Nice on Wednesday to ensure they finish in first place and avoid a potential clash with European champions the Netherlands in the next round.
Despite the defeat the 'Albicelestes', third in the group with a point, can still qualify for the knockout stages if they beat Scotland in their final game in Paris, although they will have to show more attacking intent than they have in their opening two matches.
The were twice saved by goalkeeper Correa, who pushed Parris' 28th-minute penalty off the post and then pulled off a super stop to deny the excellent Mead four minutes before the break.
Japan bounce back
Earlier, strikers Mana Iwabuchi and Yuika Sugasawa were on the scoresheet as Japan claimed a 2-1 victory over Scotland.
Japan, the runners-up four years ago, were coming off a uninspiring goalless draw with lowly-ranked Argentina in their opener but looked much sharper up front against the Scots.
They got a breakthrough when striker Iwabuchi controlled a poor headed clearance from Scotland captain Rachel Corsie before unleashing a powerful strike high into the net from 20 metres.
Sugasawa doubled Japan's lead from the spot in the 37th minute after another defensive error from Corsie, who was penalised for tugging back the forward in the box.
It was one-way traffic at Rennes’ Roazhon Park as Japan continued to launch wave after wave of attacks, with midfielder Hina Sugita coming closest when her shot crashed into the crossbar just before half-time.
Shelley Kerr's Scotland responded with a physical approach going forward in the second half and pulled one back through a curling effort from substitute Lana Clelland, of Fiorentina, but Japan held on to the advantage to seal their first win of the tournament.
The Japanese now go into their final game needing a win against England if they are to top the group and ensure a more favourable draw in the last 16.
For World Cup debutants Scotland, the result will be less disappointing than the nature of their performance, as they offered little going forward until it was too late, just like in their opening defeat at the hands of England.
Italy rout hapless Jamaica
In Friday's other game, Italy booked their place in the last 16 thanks to a hat-trick by Juventus striker Cristiana Girelli and a late brace from Aurora Galli, which gave Milena Bertolini's side a perfect six points in Group C and put them through with a game to spare.
However the penalty with which Girelli opened the score caused controversy, with referee Anna-Marie Keighley pointing to the spot after a VAR check in the 10th minute for what looked like a soft foul on Barbara Bonansea.
Girelli then missed the spot-kick, but Keighley allowed her to retake following another VAR check that suggested Jamaica goalkeeper Sydney Schneider had encroached.
The 29-year-old made no mistake the second time round – two minutes after the original penalty was given – before doubling Italy's lead 13 minutes later when she bundled home Bonansea's flick-on from a corner.
Girelli became just the second Italian woman to score a World Cup hat-trick just after the break when she beat Schneider to a looping cross.
Substitute Galli then completed the rout, first firing home a long-range effort in the 71st minute before neatly taking Manuela Giugliano's through ball and rounding Schneider to slot home the fifth 10 minutes later.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)