(Reuters) – England scored three goals before halftime to beat Japan 3-0 in Tampa on Tuesday and win the SheBelieves Cup for the first time in a timely boost ahead of this year’s women’s World Cup.
Lucy Staniforth, Karen Carney and Beth Mead all found the net and Carly Telford kept a clean sheet to ensure the Lionesses finished top the of table at the four-team tournament with seven points from three games.
The Americans finished second in the tournament after beating Brazil 1-0.
“Last year we lost to USA and I made my players stay on the pitch and watch U.S lift that trophy,” England coach Phil Neville told reporters. “Even though it’s not the World Cup it’s the first step on the ladder to where we want to go. When you get your hands on a trophy it should spur you to want to do it again.”
Staniforth opened the scoring in the 12th minute when she took a neat reverse pass from Jodie Taylor before threading a precise low shot into the bottom corner of the net from 20 yards.
Carney doubled the lead in the 23rd minute when she emphatically headed home from close range after Taylor had lobbed a superb cross towards the Japan goal.
England put the game out of reach in the 30th minute when Beth Mead took a crossfield pass from Keira Walsh and danced into the area before belting it past the Japanese goalie Erina Yamane.
Japan, who knocked England out in the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2015 and entered the game level with the Lionesses in the standings, could have won the title with a win but were simply outclassed.
They will get a chance to avenge the loss at the June 7-July 7 World Cup in France, where they have been drawn in the same group as England.
The reigning world champion United States, who tied their first two games, are playing Brazil, who lost their first two games, in the day’s other match in the fourth version of the prestigious annual invitational tournament. By the time the Americans took the field they had no chance to take the title but still earned a positive final result after Tobin Heath scored in the 20th minute.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Nick Mulvenney/Amlan Chakraborty)