Ellen White’s 74th minute header saw Team GB snatch a 1-0 victory over Olympics host, Japan to secure qualification for the knockout stages.
White headed in from Bronze’s cross to capitalise on a defensive mix-up for Japan as Team GB fought their way to a scrappy victory.
Following a first half which lacked chances, Team GB played with more tenacity in the second half which proved the difference, after various players including Keira Walsh, Nikita Parris and Lauren Hemp wasted chances throughout the opening 73 minutes.
Team GB eventually clung on to go top of Group E ahead of Canada after Janine Beckie’s brace saw the Canadians defeat Chile 2-1 with both teams set to meet in their final Group match on Tuesday 27 July, whilst Japan face a must-win match against Chile to keep their Olympics dreams alive.
A scrappy start saw both teams struggle to create chances until Hemp headed over the bar from Walsh’s diagonal cross in the tenth minute.
Parris three minutes later flicked Demi Stokes’ cross from the left flank behind for White to poke in, only for Ayaka Yamashita to save, just as Parris tried to collect the loose ball from the Japanese goalkeeper’s grasp to fire in.
Honoka Hayashi produced Japan’s best chance of the first half with a long-range strike in the 15th minute as both teams thereafter struggled to create many chances with Hemp creating the best chance of the closing stages before half time as she headed Parris’ 39th minute cross wide.
Upon the start of the second half, Team GB came out with more energy as Steph Houghton whipped in a cross just 30 seconds into the restart, only to be adjudged offside as White headed wide.
Team GB kept the pressure up throughout the second half as substitute, Caroline Weir fired wide in the 63rd minute following an one-two move up the left with Hemp, before Parris and Walsh curled shots wide four and eight minutes later respectively.
Hege Riise’s British team eventually found the breakthrough in the 74th minute as Kim Little charged up the right, only to pull back to Bronze who curled in a cross for White to knock in via her head following a defensive mix-up in Japan’s defence.
Japan consequently came out fighting more but Team GB weathered waves of attack and clung on for victory, even after Weir missed a 90th minute chance to seal another two goal win after rifling a free-kick over the bar.
Elsewhere, Netherlands remain top of Group F from Brazil on goal difference after Dominique Janssen rescued a late equaliser for the Dutch in a 3-3 draw, after letting the lead slip twice despite Vivianne Miedema netting a brace.
Wang Shuang netted four goals as China PR found themselves held to a 4-4 draw by Zambia in a topsy-turvy encounter, as Barbra Banda produced her second consecutive Olympic hattrick for Zambia to leave both teams sat third and fourth respectively.
Across in Group G, Fridolina Rolfo’s double helped Sweden secure their spot in the knockouts after defeating Australia 4-2, despite Sam Kerr too scoring twice but for the Aussies.
USA now sit second from Australia on goal difference ahead of their crunch knockout qualification decider on Tuesday after thrashing New Zealand 6-1 with own goals from Abby Erceg and Catherine Bott.
Japan: Ayaka Yamashita, Risa Shimizu, Saki Kumagai, Moeka Minami, Asato Miyagawa, Yuzuho Shiokoshi (Momiki 55′), Emi Nakajima, Hina Sugita, Yui Hasegawa, Honoka Hayashi(Endo 67′), Mina Tanaka (Miura 67′)
Substitutes: Sakiko Ikeda, Saori Takarada, Narumi Miura, Yuika Sugasawa, Mana Iwabuchi, Jun Endo, Yuka Momiki
Team GB: Ellie Roebuck, Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Leah Williamson, Demi Stokes, Sophie Ingle (Weir 59′), Keira Walsh, Kim Little, Nikita Parris (Daly 76′), Ellen White, Lauren Hemp (Stanway 88′)
Substitutes: Carly Telford, Mille Bright, Rachel Daly, Jill Scott, Niamh Charles, Caroline Weir, Georgia Stanway