By Ros Satar
- England bow out of Women’s World Cup to Japan 2:1
- Heart-breaking own goal by Laura Bassett in injury time
- Lionesses best result in a World Cup
Edmonton, CANADA – England’s Women’s World Cup bid ended in the most heart-breaking fashion as a Laura Bassett own goal scored in the last minutes of play sent defending champions Japan into the final, 2:1.
Despite a slow start to the tournament with an opening loss to France, the Lionesses have caught the imagination of the nation, in the midst of worse fortunes for Gareth Southgate’s U21 England side, and commentators and public alike have enjoyed gentle jokes at the senior men’s team expense. Still many got behind them as they bid to be just the second England side to reach a World Cup final since 1966.
Japan took the lead from a penalty by Aya Miyama but just five minutes before the end of first time, it was England’s turn behind the spot, as Fara Williams converted a penalty of her own to level the match.
England had looked focussed from the start, giving Japan a scare within the first minute while Japan took a while to settle down. Their penalty came as Claire Rafferty shoved Saori Ariyoshi in a contentious decision as the foul looked as though it happened outside the box.
Miyama made no mistake, as she put the ball past Karen Bardsley, but the England side have shown that they have the resolve not to panic, after coming from behind against Norway. When former Chelsea striker Yuki Ogimi brought Steph Houghton down after catching her heel.
Fara Williams equalised from her second spot kick of the tournament and from there England seemed to look the stronger side. Three chances came and went for the Lionesses. Toni Duggan thumped the bar from outside the box, Ellen White forced a save from Japanese goalie Ayumi Kaithori before Jill Scott headed just wide of the posts from the resulting corner.
As the last few moments of injury time were played, with extra time and the spectre of penalties looming, Bassett’s misdirected clearance struck the bar of her goal before agonisingly dropping over the line, ending England hopes with almost the last kick of the game.
As her team-mates gathered to try and console her, Mark Sampson could barely contain his own emotions as he tried to put into words what had just happened. But there is scant time for the team to come to terms with it all, as they will face Germany for the third place play-off.
“It really is heart-breaking. I’m so proud of them,” Sampson said. “I’ve told them it’s OK to cry. They left everything on the field and it’s a really tough way to go out.”
He continued: “We came here as a huge underdog with the weight of a nation on our back. The players have inspired a nation and they deserve to go home as heroes. This team has shown the world what it is capable of. The players will have special memories for the rest of their lifetime.
“I can’t find a word to emphasise how together this team has been. They are a special group to work with and have shown what type of people they are and what type of team they are. I can’t be prouder.”
The third place play off will be on Saturday 4 July at 9pm BST.