Japan vs England Women Preview: Lionesses Licking Their Wounds
(Photo by Roy Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Both sides were defeated in Matchday 1 of SheBelieves and now Japan and England face off to fight for their first points of the tournament.

Japan have long struggled against European sides in international tournaments, losing to England and the Netherlands during the World Cup. However, they have a much more experienced squad than the Lionesses which could prove vital.

England's shoddy form and poor performance against the USA have only piled the pressure on Phil Neville and defeat to Japan will do little to help his cause.

  • Sunday Night's Alright For Fighting

England's miserable record since their World Cup exit has now been stretched to just two wins in eight matches. Neville drew the ire of the watching English by his bizarre team selection against the USWNT. Starting Ellen White over Beth England was a tactical surprise that backfired hard for the Lionesses. Time will tell if Neville will learn his lesson or not.

Japan are the elite footballing country in Asia and can count on a young squad who still have impressive amounts of international experience. This could tip the balance in the favour of the Japanese against a young England squad.

  • Young Guns

England have three uncapped players in their ranks, but what may be a big concern for some is the distinct lack of goals in the squad. Eleven out of the 23 players have scored an international goal, but only five of them have got more than ten. With top scorer Ellen White misfiring against the USA, someone has to step up and fast.

Japan meanwhile don't have a player over 30 years of age, but every single player has experience in the national setup at some point. Captain Saki Kumagai is the oldest player at 29 and also has the most caps with 110. She has been a rock for European giants Lyon in recent years and is the standout player in the Japan.

  • The A Team

England's lineup is again impossible to predict. While one would assume that Beth England would lead the line, we all assumed that before the USA game as well. Even the system is tricky to predict as Neville opted for 4-1-4-1 last time out, but has been known to be erratic with his lineups in tournaments. All we can say with any real degree of certainty is that his trademark 4-3-3 has most likely been canned permanently.

Japan's system is even harder to nail down. In their last four games, they've used four different formations. The only element that has remained consistent across all the systems is the use of four defenders. Essentially, we've got nothing as they've just been so erratic in recent games.

  • Up and Up

The Japanese FA have recently announced the creation of its first ever professional women's football league, starting in 2021. The nation will also host the Olympics this summer as well as the 2023 World Cup. The JFA are therefore looking to its national team to provide a platform for success domestically.

England are hoping for the same. The WSL continues to break new ground for women's football in the country while viewing figures for the national side have skyrocketed. Both sides need their national teams to push on, but England's at least seems to be getting rather stale.

  • Talking Body

​​​​​​​England boss Neville has again asserted that he will not change his style. In his press conference he asserted that "it's my style and how I want to play". The Telegraph reported on Saturday that Neville's job is "not under any threat... as the FA acknowledge that the team is in transition".

While Japan is taking the SheBelieves Cup seriously, coach Asako Takakura is more focused on the home Olympics in the summer. Speaking to FIFA before the tournament, Takakura stated that "we must work on many things as we build up to the Olympics".