The stakes at the Women’s World Cup in France are about to get even higher.

And Steph Houghton has urged her England colleagues to stay brave ahead of Wednesday’s pivotal final group game against Japan on Wednesday.

The Lionesses have already qualified for the last 16 after winning their first two Group D games but face their toughest test yet against the side which defeated them at the semi-final stage of the 2015 World Cup.

However, City and England skipper Houghton insists the Lionesses will continue to play their bold, adventurous passing game despite the threat posed by Japan as they seek to secure top spot.

“It is a strength of our defenders, especially the centre-halves, that we all can play from the back,” Houghton said.

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“We have to be brave. Against Scotland sometimes it did not work but we kept trying.

“There’s a lot of thought that goes into it,” added Houghton. “We try to drag them out to create gaps and give us width.”

Meanwhile, in yesterday’s action both the United States and Sweden secured their passage through to the last 16.

The Americans overwhelmed Chile 3-0 in their second Group F clash with former Manchester City striker Carli Lloyd claiming a brace of goals.

Sweden also made it through to the knockout stages with a group game to spare after beating Thailand 5-1 in Nice.

Today, marks the start of the final round of group games with the action in both Group A and B coming to a conclusion.

In this evening’s two 8pm kick-offs, hosts France tackle Nigeria in Rennes while Reims is the venue as South Korea play Norway. 

France have qualified with two wins from two and need just a draw or better against Nigeria on Monday to ensure they will top the group.

Draws for Norway and Nigeria would seal their last-16 spots, while both could qualify even if they lose.

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But pointless South Korea must beat Norway to have any chance of edging through, while also hoping for other results to go their way.

The day’s action starts with the final two games in Group B, both getting underway at 5pm, with Germany, who have already qualified, looking to top the group against South Africa in Montpellier while Spain tackle China in Le Havre.

Bottom side South Africa will be out if Spain and China’s match ends in a draw, but if it does not, Banyana Banyana have a slim chance of going through if they beat the Germans and then results in other groups go in their favour.

Spain will be assured of second spot in the group if they draw with China, who themselves know a draw would guarantee them one of the best third-place spots, while either of them could yet win the group if Germany fall to a surprise loss.