Edmonton: A late own-goal by England defender Laura Bassett put defending champions Japan into the final of the Women's World Cup on Wednesday with a 2-1 win.
Japan next play the two-time winners United States in the final at Vancouver next Sunday after the Americans beat Germany 2-0 in a Tuesday semi-final at Montreal. Japan and England looked to be heading for extra time deadlocked at 1-1 after captain Aya Miyama scored a penalty on 33 minutes at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium only for Fara Williams to level for England five minutes before the break, also from a penalty kick.
Japan after winning the semifinal. Pic/ AFP
But two minutes into injury time, Bassett sent the ball into her own net to end her team's dream run to their first World Cup semi-final. Bassett 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." 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 the ball just wide of Ayumi Kaihori in the Japanese goal.
The Asian champions 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. 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 on level terms after captain Steph Houghton was deemed to have been fouled in the box by Japan forward Yuki Ogimi. Williams rifled the penalty into goal past Kaihori to equalise for the sixth-ranked English. Forward Ellen White was substituted in on the hour mark and lifted the England attack.
Two minutes later, Toni Duggan rattled the crossbar afrom 22 yards, and seconds later a diving Kaihori did well to punch clear White's curling goalward shot. Norio Sasakai brought on Mana Iwabuchi 20 minutes from time and the Bayern Munich forward proved a real danger straight away for England. She whipped in a cross after 77 minuets but Mizuho Sakaguchi's header went wide. But as Japan pushed forward with the clock ticking, there was heartbreak for England as Bassett sent the ball over the head of Bardsley and into the net.
- US-Japan final a rematch -
Sunday's championship match will be a rematch of the 2011 final in Frankfurt, which Japan won 3-1 on penalites after the game finished 2-2 following extra-time. The Americans went on to take Olympic gold in 2012 by beating Japan 2-1 in the final. England now prepare to meet former two-time winners Germany in Saturday's third-place playoff match in Edmonton.
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