England and Japan to meet in rematch of 2015 semifinal

Japan's players celebrate after winning their Women's World Cup Group D soccer match between Japan and Scotland at the Roazhon Park in Rennes, France, Friday, June 14, 2019. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

England was overjoyed to make it to the semifinals of the Women's World Cup four years ago, an overachievement the squad believed, so the eliminating loss to Japan wasn't a surprise or a bitter disappointment

PARIS — England was overjoyed to make it to the semifinals of the Women's World Cup four years ago, an overachievement the squad believed, so the eliminating loss to Japan wasn't a surprise or a bitter disappointment.

Much has changed in mentality and quality of play since, and England no longer is happy simply to be advancing through the biggest tournament in the world. England and Japan play Wednesday in a rematch of the 2015 semifinal that Japan won 2-1.

"Potentially this is a little more intense," defender Lucy Bronze said Tuesday. "In 2015, maybe we overachieved a little bit. We played very well in that semifinal and I think we probably could have won it. But now we have more belief.

"We want to win. We want to win every game. We want to get to the final and beat any team that gets in front of us. We know we can."

The Group D finale at Stade de Nice will mark the fourth consecutive Women's World Cup meeting of the nations. The teams also met in March, when England rolled to a 3-0 victory in a tournament at Tampa, Florida.

Japan coach Asako Takakura thinks that defeat three months ago is not a reflection of how Wednesday's match will evolve.

"In that match we managed to try all the things we wanted to try and test ourselves," she said. "We don't have a negative impression about that defeat. The England team has different character as a squad, and I really sincerely hope all our players fulfill their full potential."

Both teams already have earned slots in the round of 16. At stake is the top spot in the group.

England coach Phil Neville wants to finish first and plans a squad rotation designed to win the game.

"We've got to pick our best side because we want to finish top of the group and we want to continue to build the momentum we started in the first two games," he said. "We are going to have to be at our best to have any kind of result."

SCOTLAND-ARGENTINA: The second Group D finale has implications for both Argentina and Scotland as neither team has earned a spot in the knockout round.

Argentina would advance with a victory at Parc des Princes in Paris, while Scotland could advance with a win and help in goal differential. A draw would eliminate both teams.

That Argentina controls its fate is a position few believed the squad would be in at the start of the tournament. Argentina had never scored a point in World Cup play prior to its opening 0-0 draw with Japan. Ranked 37th in the world, the team didn't even qualify for the tournament in 2011 and 2015 and had lost all six of its previous World Cup matches before arriving in France.

Scotland lost matches to England and Japan and doesn't have a point in this World Cup.

RECAPPING TUESDAY: Marta set a World Cup record for men and women with her 17th goal in Brazil's 1-0 victory over Italy. Marta's 17th goal came on a penalty kick in the 74th minute at Stade du Hainaut in Valenciennes. The goal broke the mark Marta had shared with Miroslav Klose, who scored 16 World Cup goals for Germany from 2002-14. Marta is the only player, male or female, to score in five World Cups. Brazil needed only a draw to advance, while Italy had already earned a spot in the round of 16 but won the group even with the loss. ... Sam Kerr scored four goals, one shy of the World Cup record and the most by an Australian, in a 4-1 victory over Jamaica hat advanced the Matildas into the knockout round for the fourth consecutive tournament. Kerr tied her with Alex Morgan of the United States for the tournament lead with five goals. Jamaica got its first World Cup goal when Havana Solaun scored early in the second half.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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