NICE, France — For the first time since Bryan Robson, Peter Shilton and Glenn Hoddle, an England team finished a World Cup group stage with a 3-0 record.
Ellen White scored both goals, and the Lionesses roared into the round of 16 with a 2-0 victory over Japan on Wednesday night to win the group.
Phil Neville’s England squad will play a third-place team on Sunday and with a victory would advance to a quarterfinal against Norway or Australia. The victory over Japan came after Neville made eight changes to the starting lineup.
"Since Phil’s come in he’s changed different combinations of the squad and I think that’s why this squad is so competitive and so great," White said. "We can change the squad and show that we can play together and we’ve got so many different combinations and styles and talented players and that’s really important going into a tournament that’s really long.
"We can use all 23 players so that’s exciting and it’s just great to have such talented players that can perform on the biggest stage."
Japan finished second with a 1-1-1 record and will play the Netherlands or Canada in the round of 16.
The 30-year-old White scored in the 14th minute when she chipped the ball past goalkeeper Saki Kumagai after being sent clear by Georgia Stanway. White’s third goal on the tournament came in the 84th minute following a through-ball by Karen Carney.
White scored in the opening win over Scotland, then was dropped to the bench against Argentina.
"We’ve just got to give him a headache," White said with a laugh, describing all the players pushing to start. "For us it’s just about trying to perform and play well and he’s got the hard job to do."
Neville is likely to stick with his rotation policy for Sunday’s match although he admitted he might not make as many changes.
"It depends on what team we’re playing," he said. "There are certain players who are our experts in certain games. We need to know which team we’re playing, then decide how they play, how we’re going to beat them and see the players which fit the profile the best.
"That’s what rotation is about. It’s not about throwing 23 players into a hat and pulling out 11. We strategically plan each rotation. Sometimes if you make more than five, you suffer in the rhythm and the flow and I think we did that tonight."
Trailing by a goal, Japan almost scored when substitute Yuika Sugasawa volleyed narrowly past the left post.
"We managed to get through to the knockout stage, and the things we should do have been defined in our past matches," Japan coach Asako Takakura said. "We need to be very prepared for the next round."