By Mary Cunningham
Japan beat England 2-1 last night, setting up a Women’s World Cup finals with the United States, but it needed a colossal British screw-up to di it.
Laura Bassett (above) scored into her own net during second-half stoppage time, and the decisive goal came when Japan’s Nahomi Kawasumi drove up the right side and sent a cross into the middle for Yuki Ogimi. Bassett reached out with her right foot and caught the ball flush, inadvertently sending it toward her net. The ball struck the crossbar and bounced in before goalkeeper Karen Bardsley could stop it.
Japan, the defending champion, advanced to play the United States in the championship game in Vancouver on Sunday. It is a rematch of the 2011 championship game in Germany, when Japan won on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw.
The United States is 24-1-6 against Japan.
“However we played in this game, the fact is, we’re going to the final,” Japan Coach Norio Sasaki said through an interpreter. “And I’d like to congratulate the players for that.”
Bassett was inconsolable at the end of the match, lying flat on the ground, her face in the turf. She needed assistance from teammates and her coach before leaving the field.
“This team can’t be afraid to cry,” England Coach Mark Sampson said. “There’s nothing wrong with that at all.”
It was a torturous finish for the sixth-ranked Lionesses, who made their deepest run in four World Cup appearances. England had never won an elimination game until this year.
“Of course, when there’s a huge disappointment there’s going to be an outcry,” Sampson added. “But it’ll sink in soon what they’ve achieved and how proud everyone is of their teammate.”
England will remain in Edmonton to play top-ranked Germany in the third-place match Saturday. Germany lost, 2-0, to the United States on Tuesday.
England lost despite controlling much of the second half against the fourth-ranked Japanese. That occurred despite what Sasaki had said a day earlier, when he suggested his players were “superior.”