England turned the threat of first-round elimination into Group B victory with a 2-0 win over Japan to reach the Women's World Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday in Germany.
After a lacklustre first two games, England was spectacular in its decisive game. After 15 minutes, Sophie Bradley sent a deep ball from her half toward Ellen White, who forward spotted goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori off her line. She let the ball bounce once and lobbed it over Kaihori with exquisite precision from 21 metres out.
In the 66th, England came up with a second good goal, when Rachel Unitt shrugged off several Japanese defenders to set up substitute forward Rachel Yankey for a delicate chip and the insurance goal.
Japan was supposed to be all about skill while England relied on power and push, but with an inspired performance and great goals, the Europeans disproved it.
With the tournament on the line, England was aggressive and played with passion throughout, while Japan rarely thrilled the crowd of 20,777 in Augsburg.
Victory gave England seven points, one more than Japan. Mexico and New Zealand were eliminated.
After the game, the players united behind a Japanese banner saying "To our friends around the world — Thank you for your support," recognizing the global support in the wake of the deadly Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March.
England had everything to play for. A big loss could eliminate it from the tournament while a win over Japan would give it the right to avoid the top team of Group A in the quarters.
The early goal settled nerves, and from then on England always looked more like group winners than first-round losers.
Japan started with the same lineup that set it up as a tournament favourite, while England made changes in four places to rev up its campaign.
After her first goal, While almost scored one of equal brilliance in the 38th when she had to go back for a cross, yet swung in an overhead volley which Kaihori barely tipped onto the bar and over.
Japan sought a way back into the game in the second half and Yuki Nagasato slid in behind defenders on a 49th-minute free kick, but her deflection went just wide.