Edmonton (Canada) (AFP) – Holders Japan swiped a dramatic 2-1 victory over England thanks to an injury-time own-goal by defender Laura Bassett, setting up a Women’s World Cup final rematch against the United States.
The Asian champions, who defeated the Americans on penalty kicks in the 2011 championship match, take on the two-time winners on Sunday in Vancouver after the US women beat Germany 2-0 in a Tuesday semi-final at Montreal.
England and Japan looked to be heading for extra time deadlocked after captain Aya Miyama scored a penalty on 33 minutes only for Fara Williams to level for England five minutes before the break, also from a penalty kick.
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.
Bassett, 31, was in tears after the final whistle and had to be consoled by England coach Mark Sampson as she walked off the field, the Lionesses stunned, shocked and crying at the heartbreaking final turn.
“It’s OK to cry. They left everything on the field,” Sampson said.
Sampson was especially proud of Bassett, whose heroics helped England to the brink of the championship match.
“Laura Bassett has epitomised this England team this tournament,” he said. “She has been courageous, strong… she kept this team together. She didn’t deserve that. She’ll be remembered as a hero.”
But Japan coach Norio Sasaki saw the goal more as one created by the good work of his players rather than an English error.
“Own goal, it was not really an own goal because we created the situation because we had a really strong counter attack and (Yuki) Ogimi was there and that’s why she (Bassett) was forced to do what she did,” he said.
“Nahomi Kawasumi and Yuki Ogimi were the ones who created this goal. In the end we were the ones who were able to obtain such a dramatic goal.”
– Lionesses roaring –
As with the first semi-final which was marked by a penalty missed by Germany and one scored by the Americans, Wednesday’s game was also one of penalties early before the late drama in front of 31,467 spectators in Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.
England were the only team to defeat Japan at Germany 2011, winning 2-0 in the group stage during the Nadeshiko’s charge to their maiden world crown.
And the Lionesses had come out roaring with Jodie Taylor having the first shot at goal after just one minute when she fired from 25 yards but sent just wide of Ayumi Kaihori in the Japanese goal.
Japan dominated possession for the first half hour and finally got the breakthrough on a penalty, awarded when Claire Rafferty brought down Saori Ariyoshi, who was charging towards goal, in a tackle which started outside the box.
Miyama stepped up and, taking her time with a stuttering run, slotted the penalty in as Karen Bardsley dived the wrong way in the England goal.
But eight minutes later, England were back level after captain Steph Houghton fell easily in the box following little contact by Japan forward Ogimi.
Williams rifled the penalty into goal past Kaihori to equalise for the sixth-ranked English.
Toni Duggan rattled the crossbar just after the hour mark, and seconds later a diving Kaihori did well to punch clear substitute Ellen White’s curling goalward shot, with Jill Scott also threatening on 66 minutes.
Sasakai brought on Mana Iwabuchi 20 minutes from time and the electric Bayern Munich forward proved a real danger.
She whipped in a cross after 77 minuets but Mizuho Sakaguchi’s header went wide.
– ‘What a tough one’ –
With the clock ticking down, Japan made one final break down the right flank and Bassett’s stretch to cut out a cross only served to turn the ball into her own goal off the underside of the bar.
“What a tough one, what a tough one to take,” said Sampson.
“Every single member of our group was devastated when that ball went over the line but our first point of call is look after you own.
“Laura is one of us, she’s one of our team, we get around her, we console her, we let her cry and we tell her how proud we are of her because without her we wouldn’t be in this semi-final.”
Sunday’s championship match will be a third clash for a major title between Japan and the United States.
In the 2011 final in Frankfurt, Japan won on penalities but the Americans went on to take Olympic gold in 2012 by beating Japan in the final.
England now prepare to meet former two-time winners Germany in Saturday’s third-place playoff match in Edmonton.