EDMONTON: England’s dream run to their first semi-finals at the Women’s World Cup came to a heartbreaking conclusion on Wednesday, losing 2-1 to Japan following a dramatic 92nd-minute Laura Bassett own-goal.
The Lionesses had been causing the defending champions problems in Edmonton with Fara Williams’ penalty five minutes before the break cancelling out a penalty kick by Japan captain Aya Miyama on 33 minutes.
But as the Japanese desperately pushed for the winner two minutes into stoppage time at the Commonwealth Stadium, Bassett’s interception rebounded in off her own crossbar. It put the holders through to a final rematch with 2011 runners-up the US in Vancouver on Sunday.
Bassett, 31, was in tears and had to be consoled by her teammates and England coach Mark Sampson as she walked off the field, the Lionesses stunned, shocked and crying at the heartbreaking final turn.
“It was a horrible moment, but you just have to look at how the team has supported her to understand that she’ll be able to get over it,” said Sampson. “Every single member of our group was devastated when that ball went over the line. The players deserve to go back home as heroes. Laura is devastated after the own goal, but without her we wouldn’t have been in this semi-final.”
Sampson’s side were just the third ever English team to reach a semi-final at a World Cup after the men reached that stage in 1966 and 1990.
But they would not be following in the footsteps of the men who went on to win the 1966 World Cup on home soil.
“Japan are the world champions, and we saw why tonight,” said 32-year-old Sampson, who took over in December 2013. “But I’ve never seen a team put Japan under the kind of pressure that we did. That’s almost worth a World Cup victory.”
Meahwhile, Japan coach Norio Sasaki admitted his side struggled to control England. “I thought we could play the way we wanted to and we could stick to our plan, but they were playing in a very simple manner and they were also powerful,” said Sasaki. “England were more mobile than I was expecting, and we struggled to cause them problems.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2015.
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