England has made a statement ahead of the Women's World Cup, while the U.S. women's national team has a bit of work to do before it gets to France.
Phil Neville's Lionesses captured the SheBelieves Cup with an emphatic 3-0 win over Japan in a de facto title game in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday night, winning its first title in the four years of the competition. The triumph marks continued growth for England, which finished third in 2016 and 2017 and second in 2018 before topping the table in 2019.
England and Japan entered the night even on points and tied for first, with the winner guaranteed the title. The U.S. was hoping for a draw in order to have a chance to win a third title in four years with a victory over Brazil, but England made sure that fantasy scenario never came to light. A 12th-minute goal from Lucy Staniforth, a 23rd-minute strike from Karen Carney and a 30th-minute dagger from Beth Mead put the drama to rest within half an hour, and Japan never recovered.
"Last year we were down in Orlando and we lost 1-0 to the USA and I made my players stay out on the pitch and watch the USA lift that trophy," Neville told Fox Sports after the match. "You know when you get your hands on a medal and a trophy, it should spur you on to want to do that again. Tonight we're going to get our hands on the trophy, and even though it's not the World Cup, it's the first step on the ladder to where we want to go."
The USA, meanwhile, at least finished its competition with three points and a second-place finish. After 2-2 draws vs. Japan and England, Jill Ellis's side found more success against Marta & Co. with a 1-0 victory. Denied a penalty when Mal Pugh was taken down in the box a minute into the game, the U.S. found its opener soon after. Tobin Heath's 20th-minute strike was all the U.S. ultimately needed, with the winger firing home off the rebound after Alex Morgan was denied the 100th goal of her USWNT career.
More chances followed in a match that was largely controlled by the U.S., but then again, Brazil was the opponent that always figured to give the U.S. the least amount of trouble among the three. If there's a critique on the night, it's the USA's inability to put Brazil away with its multitude of chances.
Ashlyn Harris, the third U.S. goalkeeper to start in as many games, made a big save in the 77th minute on a rare moment when called into action and again on a Marta free kick in the 81st.
Minutes before, Marta's Orlando Pride teammate, Morgan, was inches wide of her landmark goal on a looping header that narrowly missed the mark.
The 1-0 victory secured five points for the U.S., two behind England and one more than Japan, while Brazil goes home with no points after three consecutive losses.
Both the USA and England have more challenges to conquer on the road to France, with the latter moving forward with loads of positive momentum. The Americans have friendlies against Australia, Belgium, South Africa, New Zealand and Mexico lined up before opening group play, while England will play Canada, Spain, Denmark and New Zealand.