Japan v England: Holders to end trophy hopes of resilient Lionesses

Lucy Bronze scored for England in both the round-of-16 and quarter-finals
Lucy Bronze scored for England in both the round-of-16 and quarter-finals
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England have gone much further than projected at the Women's World Cup, but Japan look like the classic "test too far"...


"Though England have overachieved, they aren't at the standard of other semi-finalists Japan, Germany and USA and are indeed the lone of the final four to have never claimed the World Cup before."

Best Bet: Back Japan to win @ 2.0621/20

Japan v England
Thursday, 00:00
Live on BBC One and British Eurosport


Japan

They have been backed at odds of 20.0 and higher to win the competition and are still available to back at 4.84/1, yet it remains a mystery why they have been so overlooked.

Japan are holders, they have won all five of their games in regulation time - a feat nobody else in the tournament can rival - and they have conceded only two goals, which were both 90th-minute consolations in fixtures that they led 2-0.

It is therefore no surprise that, despite being priced like outsiders, over £20,000 has been staked on them retaining their trophy, as Germany did in 2007 before having their era of dominance ended by Japan in the quarter-finals four years ago.


England

We are now two wins away from Sir Mark Sampson and Dame Lucy Bronze becoming a reality, with England's fourth successive 2-1 victory at the World Cup, this time at the expense of hosts Canada, securing their place in the semi-finals.

This is their best ever World Cup performance and, as you may just have heard, the finest of any senior England national side in 25 years.

There is a significant distinction between Japan and the quartet that the Lionesses have defeated thus far though. Mexico, Colombia, Norway and Canada were all below them in the world rankings, whereas Japan are above. The sole other statistically superior team that they have faced, France, beat them fairly decisively.

It is also true that Japan haven't met anyone as good as England, but their 100% record in this year's competition and 2011 success mean that they don't have to prove their quality as much.


Match Odds: Japan 2.0621/20, England 4.57/2, The Draw 3.39/4

England have already eliminated two nations that the odds indicated that they weren't supposed to in Norway and Canada, yet Japan are an enormous step up even from those.

They have won every match this summer and, for all that Sampson's squad are the most talented that they have faced, the 2011 winners will be fully aware that this is the dream draw.

Though the Lionesses have overachieved, they aren't at the standard of other semi-finalists Germany and USA and are indeed the lone of the final four to have never claimed the World Cup before.

While USA, Germany and Japan have prevailed in five of the previous six editions, this is England's first semi-final, and the final is an even more exclusive club. Across six instalments, there have been a four former champions and seven different finalists.

Take away the maiden two, USA and Norway, and four of the five others (Germany, China, Sweden and Brazil) had to lose a semi-final before they triumphed in one. Japan were the only side to profit from beginner's luck at this phase in that entire timeframe.


Both Teams to Score

England's run of 2-1 wins may not continue against Japan, but there is no reason why they can't at least net against the defending champs, having done in each of their three other head-to-head clashes in the past decade.

Both teams to score has delivered in each of England's past four World Cup ties and two of Japan's latest four. The other advantage of this wager is its longevity. As both countries have given up two 90th-minute goals apiece, a slow start for either attack needn't dictate a blank.


Best Bet: Back Japan to win @ 2.0621/20
Other Recommended Bet: Back both teams to score @ 2.47/5


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