Rachel Daly, Chloe Kelly, Ella Toone and Jess Park were all on target in a stylish 4-0 win as England dispatched former world champions Japan at the Pinatar Arena, further cementing their position as one of the favorites for next year’s World Cup.
Debutant Park, on from the substitutes’ bench, rounded off the points late on to put the gloss on a thoroughly ruthless attacking display as Sarina Wiegman extended her unbeaten reign as manager to 25 games.
Daly’s goal had given England a half-time lead and the European champions turned the tide after the break as Kelly and Toone struck before 21-year-old Park wrapped things up with a last minute 90.
Kelly, England’s most impressive outlet, was rewarded for all her first half when she swept home Beth Mead’s cross in the 53rd minute, cementing her claim to a regular starting place in the absence of the injured Lauren Hemp.
Ebony Salmon, another Lionesses newcomer, was then involved in England’s final raid of the night when he provided the fourth, robbing Moeka Minami of possession before cutting the ball back for Park to make an almost immediate impact.
England team news
Sarina Wiegman was forced into changes with Lauren Hemp absent, Alex Greenwood tired and Lucy Bronze ruled out after testing positive for Covid-19.
Fran Kirby was also missing through illness, but England showed growing depth as Esme Morgan and Niamh Charles made their first international starts.
Park puts the seal on satisfying victory
Park scored just seconds into her debut as England eased to victory over Japan in Spain, with Wiegman praising her team for their defiance and show of “attractive football”.
The Lionesses are now unbeaten in their last 25 outings, with preparations for next summer’s World Cup well under way.
Japan, ranked 11th in the world, was seen as a unique technical challenge to test England’s seemingly unbreakable resolve, but it was one they handled comfortably.
It also showed how blessed England are with young, breakthrough talent – with 21-year-old Salmon on Toone’s strike, before orchestrating the opener for Park to mark a memorable international bow.
Chelsea forward Lauren James was equally eager to impress and was at the heart of England’s third goal, driving from midfield before moving the ball to Salmon who played a clever reverse pass to beat Toone.
The only minor disappointment on an otherwise pleasing night was that returning forward Alessia Russo could not extend her purple patch in front of goal, despite almost heading home Kelly’s in-swinging cross in the 26th minute – only to find the outside of the far post.
Wiegman praises “attractive” display
England head coach Sarina Wiegman:
“We played a very good game. It was a very attractive game with a lot of football.
“Japan played football as well, which made it a very tactical, technical game. I really liked it. They played in a slightly different shape to what we’re used to so it’s good to see that we can do that.
“I really liked how we solved it. In the game they changed it as well – we had to adapt all the time. We scored four goals so that’s really nice.
“It’s good to see young players play well, they did very well. It’s only two minutes so we can’t really evaluate her [Jess Park] performance but when you make your debut and score – I haven’t seen her stop smiling yet.”
Kelly: Great to be back on the leaderboard
England forward Chloe Kelly:
“This is a great team from Japan and I think we did well on the night. A great team performance and we go again on Tuesday.
“Scoring always feels so good. I’ve been waiting for it for a while so it’s great to get on the scoresheet.
“We showed up tonight. We can be proud of that performance. Everything is a building block, we showed our quality again. It’s so great to be out there, I’m really enjoying my football.”
Analysis: England the team to beat
Sky Sports’ Laura Hunter:
“Another display of sheer superiority from Sarina Wiegman. There is no stopping England under the Dutchman. Her record is phenomenal, but more than that the Lionesses now carry a menacing sense of inevitability. Not in an arrogant way, but they know are a formidable challenge to any opponent, they are ruthless and fearless.
“The European champions will be aiming for world domination in 2023 and, based on recent history, who will deny them a realistic shot. They have conquered the reigning world champions USA at Wembley, and now they have seen off another of the game’s elite.
“During Wiegman’s tenure, they have beaten all four sides to lift a World Cup trophy. If that isn’t a comforting omen heading into next summer’s tournament, I don’t know what is. Expectations are constantly rising.”
Analysis: Lionesses outclassed technical Japan
Sky Sports reporter Anton Toloui:
“Speaking to Sarina Wiegman after the game, she seemed happier with this result and performance than when England beat the USA at Wembley.
“The demanding head coach was pleased with the ruthlessness in front of goal, to be able to beat such a technical side in Japan and by the young players who broke through.
“Wiegman gave first starts to two defenders in Niamh Charles and Esme Morgan and she was pleased with how both played. Her biggest smile, however, was reserved for Jess Park, who scored 79 seconds into her debut.
“Wiegman admits she is optimistic about the future of this England side – she is clearly eyeing trophies for years to come.”
What comes next?
The Lionesses next face Norway at the Pinatar Arena on Tuesday 15 November, kick-off 7pm, to round off international action for 2022 – a year that will be remembered as England’s most satisfying yet.
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