England crashed out of the Fifa Women’s World Cup in the cruellest of ways, as Laura Bassett’s own goal in injury time sent the Lionesses home too early.
Before the game, Japan’s coach fuelled the English team with the comments: “I wonder how England managed to succeed this far. I’m trying to figure it out”
England started the game well and almost went ahead in the first minute when Jodie Taylor shot narrowly wide. England looked the better of the two teams in the early stages of the semi-final match. Japan have been compared to Barcelona in their approach, but England’s tactics of 4-3-3 — 4-5-1 when defending — were keeping Japan from finding their rhythm.
Japan, the current holders of World Cup, steadily grew in confidence and on 30 minutes they were given a penalty for a push by Claire Rafferty on Saori Ariyoshi. The resulting spot kick was scored calmly by Japan’s captain Aya Myama.
Japan kept their lead for only nine minutes as the Lionesses came roaring back. On 39 minutes, a penalty was awarded to England for a foul on captain Steph Houghton. Fara Williams scored with an excellent penalty to level the score — it was her second goal from the spot in the tournament. The score at half was 1-1.
England started the second half like the first as the better of the two sides. They were more than holding their own against the current World Cup holders. After the hour mark in the game, England were ahead in the stats department with nine shots to Japan’s five. Toni Duggan almost put England ahead, hitting the bar with a great effort on 61 minutes. After this, England started to take the game to Japan, and on 63 minutes Ellen White forced a good save from Japan’s goalkeeper, Ayumi Kailori. A corner on 65 minutes saw Jill Scott heading narrowly wide.
At this stage there seemed like only one winner. Japan were looking nervous, especially at set pieces. This continued throughout the half but Japan was resilient to their credit. England were dealing with whatever Japan could throw at them, even when Japan brought on Iwabuchi who appeared to be a difference-maker. On 77 minutes, England hit the woodwork again with Rafferty hitting the bar with a cross.
As the half wore down, England were the better side and were at least deserving of extra time — that is until utter heartbreak befell the team. In the 92nd minute an attempted clearance from Laura Bassett came off the underside of the bar and bounced over the line. It was very harsh on arguably England’s best player, and very harsh on England who were the better team in this semi final according to most pundits. Final score 2-1.
Japan now play USA in the final and England will play Germany in 3rd place play-off.
After the game, England coach Mark Sampson had this to say: “We came here as a huge underdogs, with the weight of a nation on our back. The players have inspired a nation and they deserve to go home as heroes. It really is heartbreaking. I’m so proud of them. I’ve told them it’s okay to cry. They left everything on the field and it’s a really tough way to go out.”
The Football Association’s director of women’s football, Kelly Simmons, said before the game that the tournament had led England to “fall in love with the Lionesses”.
Judging by the support England have been getting from fans on social media and via the viewing figures, Kelly Simmons seems to be correct in what she said. The England Women can come home proud of what they have achieved and deserve all the credit they have received and will receive. After their showing in Canada, this could be the start of the rise of women’s football once the Women’s Super League and various other leagues recommence. The sadness for England’s women will pass with the future of their game looking bright.