With extra time looking inevitable between defending World Cup champion Japan and England, a heartbreaking play left Commonwealth Stadium in silence.
With barely 90 seconds remaining until referee Anna-Maria Keighley blew her whistle to signal extra time, English defender Laura Bassett found herself in a defender’s worst nightmare. Japan regained possession and looked for a final opportunity to score, causing the center back to sprint back to defend her own net. Facing her own goal and unsure where the Japanese forward was, Bassett made a play on the crossed ball by Nahomi Kawasumi. The end result saw the ball deflect inside the crossbar and past a diving Karen Bardsley, giving Japan the 2-1 victory.
When the final whistle blew moments later, Bassett dropped to the ground inconsolable and was immediately surrounded by her teammates and head coach Mark Sampson.
“Laura Bassett is devastated after the own goal, but without her we wouldn’t have been in this semifinal,” Sampson said. “It was a horrible moment, but you just have to look at how the team has supported her to understand that she’ll be able to get over it. I can’t really talk about the match right now, but I can talk about my team, who have sacrificed so much, and who have given sweat, blood and tears, while continuing to smile throughout. The players deserve to go back home as heroes.”
In a match that seemed destined for penalty kicks, it was a pair of kicks from the spot that provided the only offense in the opening half. As has been with this World Cup so far, both were seen as questionable.
Looking to chase down a ball played over the England defensive line, Saori Ariyoshi’s poor first touch caused her to slow down at the edge of the box. Defender Claire Rafferty ended up pushing the Japanese forward, causing the New Zealand referee to point to the penalty spot. While many argued that the foul might have been just outside the 18-yard-box, Aya Miyama stepped up and gave Japan the 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute.
Looking for an equalizer, England earned its own controversial call for a penalty kick. Off a corner kick served in by captain Fara Williams, the ball ended up at the feet of Steph Houghton. Houghton turned to make a play in the box and was touched by Yuki Ogimi inside the box. While it looked like Houghton might have embellished the foul, Keighley awarded the penalty kick that Williams buried past a diving Ayumi Kaihori.
The win for Japan pushes the team into their second-consecutive World Cup final, and waiting will be the United States. Despite beating the U.S. in penalty kicks in the 2011 final, the Americans got revenge in the Gold Medal match at the 2012 Olympics. Japan’s win pushes its World Cup winning streak to nine matches, with its last defeat coming to England in the final group stage match in 2011.
Japan vs. England
July 1, 2015 – Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton
Scoring by Period 1 2 F
Japan 1 1 2
England 1 0 1
JPN: Aya Miyama (PEN) 33′
ENG: Fara Williams (PEN) 40′
JPN: Laura Bassett (Own Goal) 90′ +2
ENG: Claire Rafferty (caution) 31′
JPN: Yuki Ogimi (caution) 90′
JPN: Ayumi Kaihori, Azusa Iwashimizu, Saki Kumagai, Aya Sameshima, Mizuho Sakaguchi, Aya Miyama, Nahomi Kawasumi, Shinobu Ohno (Mana Iwabuchi, 70′), Rumi Utsugi, Yuki Ogimi, Saori Ariyoshi
ENG: Karen Bardsley, Claire Rafferty, Fara Williams (Karen Carney, 86′), Steph Houghton, Laura Bassett, Jill Scott, Jade Moore, Lucy Bronze (Alex Scott, 75′), Katie Chapman, Toni Duggan, Jodie Taylor (Ellen White, 60′)