Upstart England try to end Japan's title defense

Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:00pm EDT
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By Simon Evans

EDMONTON (Reuters) - Defending champions Japan are one win away from a return trip to the Women's World Cup final, and standing in their way is an upbeat England team that beat hosts Canada to reach Wednesday's semi-final.

While it is no shock to see Japan, who have won their last eight World Cup games dating back to 2011, in the tournament's last four, England's rise to the elite of the women's game has surprised many.

Despite their unlikely run, England will not be considered pushovers at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium even though the Lionesses have never before gone this deep in the tournament.

Their previous best Women's World Cup performances were second-round defeats in 1995, 2007 and 2011.

Mark Sampson's team suffered a 1-0 defeat to France in their opening game of the 24-team tournament but have since gone on to beat Mexico, Colombia, Norway and Canada.

"From the opening game against France we have really built momentum through this tournament. We've played with different formations and different members of the squad have taken part in different games," said midfielder Fara Williams.

"This team is the most together team at the tournament and certainly the most together English team that I have played in."

But Japan, with their impressive passing style and intelligent tactical approach, represent the toughest test yet for the Lionesses.   Continued...

England midfielder Jill Scott (8) celebrates with teammates after defeating Canada in the quarterfinals of the FIFA 2015 Women's World Cup at BC Place Stadium. England won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports