The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final is set, after England went out in Wednesday’s semifinal to Japan in the most shocking and heartbreaking fashion possible — a 92nd-minute own goal off the foot of center-back Laura Bassett, who was understandably shattered when the match ended just one minute later, hiding her tear-soaked face under her shirt as her teammates and Manager Mark Sampson tried vainly to console her.
The only other two goals in the game came off controversially awarded penalty kicks, one to each side, allowing the defending World Cup champions Japan to escape and get set to face Team USA in the Final, in a rematch of the 2011 Final won by Japan on a penalty shootout.
For 92 minutes, England was more than up to the task of facing down the world champs, creating the better chances — especially when winger Toni Duggan smashed a volley just off the crossbar in the 64th minute, missing a go-ahead goal by inches.
But the most unforgettable — and most devastating — moment of the match came when Naomi Kawasumi put a perfectly placed ball into the England box with just one minute to go in injury time. Basset (pictured above) stretched to make the clearance, but misdirected the ball just enough to loop over the full extension of England keeper Karen Bardsley and off the crossbar, striking the ground about a foot behind the goal line.
“Laura Bassett has epitomized this England team this tournament, and she didn’t deserve that. But she’ll be remembered as a hero,” said Sampson moments after the final whistle.
“It’s OK to cry. They left everything on the field, they couldn’t give any more, and it’s just a really tough way to go out of the tournament,” the coach continued. “I’m just so proud of them, and they’ve inspired a nation.”
Former England greats took to Twitter to support Bassett and the team following the crushing loss, both from the women’s side…
@laurabassett6 Hold your head up high girl. You have lead by example and been IMMENSE all tournament. We you.
— Kelly Smith (@kelly_smith10) July 2, 2015
…and the men’s.
Despite the gut-wrenching nature of the defeat, England’s women were terrific and should hold their heads high. Great effort! — Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) July 2, 2015
Even a USA Men’s superstar conveyed his sympathies.
Absolutely devastated for @laurabassett6 We all make mistakes and I hope she doesn’t let this define her.
— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) July 2, 2015
“That’s football. It can be cruel at times but we can hold our heads high,” said England Captain Steph Houghton. “The squad has shown some great character and desire to win, and passion to play for England. These girls have given everything for the jersey.”
Duggan also had supportive words for her devastated teammate.
“Laura Bassett has been our rock. I know how much she wears her heart on her sleeve, she is a great example for any player out there and I know she will bounce back from it,” Duggan said.
“In the end it just wasn’t meant to be. I am proud of how far the team has come and I know we’ll bounce back,” she added.
England now face Germany on Saturday in Edmonton in the match to determine the third place finisher in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The USA vs. Japan Final takes place Sunday, July 5, at BC Place in Vancouver, with a 4 p.m. Pacific Time, 7 p.m. Eastern kickoff time.
[Image: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]