England’s football world reacted emotionally and rallied around defender Laura Bassett on Thursday after her own-goal sealed the team’s fate in a 2-1 Women’s World Cup semi-final defeat against Japan.
The U.S, who lost the 2011 final to the Japan on penalties, booked their ticket to Sunday’s championship game in Vancouver with a 2-0 win over top ranked Germany on Tuesday.
But two minutes into injury time, Bassett sent the ball into her own net to end England’s dream run to their first World Cup semi-final. And that was despite what Japan coach Norio Sasaki had said a day earlier, when he suggested his players were “superior”.
“I’m going to demand that everyone back home really ups their game and we commit everything we can to keep growing this sport in our country”.
“Laura Bassett, without a shadow of doubt will go home a hero but we will be there for her. We will stay together and stay strong ̶ this team are friends for life now”.
Then came the disastrous penalty kick shootout, with three straight misses for the U.S.by Shannon Boxx, Tobin Heath and Carli Lloyd. Sasaki reminded his players of the events to inspire them to victory along the way.
In what is being called “an all-time bad gut-punch loss” and “heartbreak on the worldwide level”, England crashed out of the 2015 Federation Internationale de Football Association Women’s World Cup tournament this week.
Bassett was inconsolable at the final whistle, but has thanked her teammates for their support in helping her get over the incident.
The result was all the more stunning considering England carried the play through much of the second half, creating the majority of the scoring chances. “But I’ve never seen a team put Japan under the kind of pressure that we did. And that’s what I take away from this game”. She started for Germany in the 2007 World Cup and did not allow a goal on the way to the title, setting a World Cup record for most minutes played (540) without a goal. This group of players will take ownership for what they need to do.
England captain Steph Houghton fell to the ground after a corner but any contact appeared minimal on replay, although that meant little as Fara Williams blasted her penalty past Ayumi Kaihori.
“That’s the hardest thing for me”, she said. On Wednesday, the Japan squad couldn’t get into its normal rhythm, and only seven minutes after their successful penalty kick in the 33rd minute, they let England tie the match. After the opening game, the U.S. recorded five consecutive clean sheets (513 scoreless streak), guiding the team into the final. Sasaki admitted that he had planned to insert Homare Sawa, who is playing in a record sixth World Cup, and Yuri Kawamura in defense for the 30-minute extra time period had it happened.