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Jul 1, 2011

England battle, Japan thrash Mexico

England gave themselves a great chance of qualifying for the Women's World Cup quarter-finals after coming from behind to beat New Zealand 2-1 on Friday night.

Jill Scott levelled the scores after New Zealand's opener and substitute Jessica Clarke arrived in the box to smash home the winner after a goalmouth scramble in the second half.

England struggled in the first half and were made to pay when the impressive Sarah Gregorius got between Casey Stoney and Rachel Unitt to bundle home Amber Hearn's cross from close range.

However, the introduction of Karen Carney at half-time helped turn the tide and Scott was inspirational as she headed home in the 63rd minute after an excellent cross from defender Alex Scott.

The Everton midfielder then turned provider as her excellent vision caught goalkeeper Jenny Bindon out of position to slot the ball across for Clarke, who slammed the winner into the roof of the net.

Earlier, inspirational captain Homare Sawa scored a hat-trick as Japan beat Mexico 4-0 in Leverkusen to book their place in the quarter-finals.

Sawa, playing in her fifth finals, opened the scoring in the 13th minute and Shinobu Ohno made it 2-0 just two minutes later to give Japan a dream start at the BayArena.

Slow-starting Mexico resorted to long balls to try and get their attacking players involved but when 32-yeard-old Sawa scored her second goal to make it 3-0 ten minutes before half-time the game was virtually over.

And it could have been even worse for Mexico as Yuki Nagasato had a goal ruled out for offside.

After the break, a long-range shot from Stephany Mayor forced Japan keeper Ayumi Kaihori into a diving save and gave the Mexicans hope, but they never really got back into the match.

Sawa completed her hat-trick with a relative tap in on 80 minutes to seal all three points for Japan and move them top of the Group. The nation's head to head record means they are through to the quarter-finals after a 16-year wait.

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