Nadeshiko Japan have the blueprint for success at the Women's World Cup, but they need to bring it all together in the knockout stage, manager Asako Takakura said Wednesday following her side's 2-0 loss to England.
With top spot in Group D on the line, world No. 3 England showed why they are among the favorites to win the month-long tournament in France as they clinched victory on a brace from striker Ellen White.
The loss at Stade de Nice leaves world No. 7 Japan runners-up in the group, with their round-of-16 match to be played against the winner of Group E -- either the Netherlands or Canada -- on Tuesday in Rennes.
(Hina Sugita of Japan challenges Ellen White of England for the ball.)[Getty/Kyodo]
In a frustrating night, the 2011 champions were on top for stretches but were unable to make the most of their chances.
Despite their group-stage struggles, Takakura said her players had displayed all the elements needed to keep advancing at the tournament.
"We managed to get through to the knockout stage and the things we should do have been defined in our past matches. We need to be very prepared (for the last 16)," Takakura said.
(Yuika Sugasawa of Japan is held by Millie Bright of England.)[Getty/Kyodo]
Japan had the first good chance of the game when Kumi Yokoyama was on target with a long-range free kick, but England keeper Karen Bardsley kept it out with an excellent save.
The Lionesses took the lead in the 14th minute when Georgia Stanway caught the Japan defense off guard with a through-ball to White, who scored with a clinical finish from the left of the box.
Reigning Asian champions Japan looked more in synch after the break and created a number of chances in the second half.
Mana Iwabuchi put Yuika Sugasawa through on goal in the 75th minute, but the substitute forward squandered a golden opportunity by failing to bring the ball under control.
Sugasawa went close eight minutes later, volleying into the side netting after outrunning her marker to a diagonal ball from Aya Sameshima.
(Asako Takakura speaks to the media after the match.)[FIFA/Getty/Kyodo]
White netted her brace with six minutes remaining, running onto a through-ball from Karen Carney and scoring from the top left of the area with another superb finish.
"We conceded a goal in the first half because of an error, and then we backed off a little because of that. But in the second half, we did manage to gain our composure but unfortunately we couldn't score," Takakura said.
Japan came into the match knowing their place in the last 16 was secure.
They were guaranteed to finish no worse than among the four best third-placed sides, who advance to the knockout stage along with the top two teams in each of the six groups, following the United States' 3-0 win over Group F opponents Chile on Sunday.