EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) -- England defender Laura Bassett was inconsolable as she lay face
down on the field, sobbing.
Japanese players gathered at the other end of the field in celebration - and relief - in
realizing how close they came to squandering a chance to defend their Womens World Cup
After Japan was outplayed for much of the second half, a turn of Bassetts foot followed by
a fortunate bounce off the crossbar led to an own goal in the final minute of stoppage time
that allowed Japan pull out a 2-1 victory in the semifinal Wednesday. Japan will travel to
Vancouver to face the United States on Sunday in a rematch of the 2011 championship game in
Oh, what a tough one, what a tough one to take, a red-eyed England coach Mark Sampson
said. I cant speak about the game. I can only speak about how incredibly proud I am of
Japan coach Norio Sasaki acknowledged there were several tense moments when England could
have scored in the second half.
But thats the game of soccer, Sasaki said through a translator. And at the end, we
were able to obtain such a dramatic goal.
Nahomi Kawasumi drove up the right side and sent a cross into the middle for Yuki Ogimi.
Bassett was in full stride when she reached out with her right foot, caught the ball flush
and inadvertently directed it toward her net. The ball struck the crossbar and bounced in
just before goalkeeper Karen Bardsley could get across.
I was very happy, said player of the match Saori Ariyoshi, referring to watching the
ball go in. Well, we did it. Thats how I felt.
It was a withering moment for England, which had no time - or energy - to gather itself and
make a comeback.
After the final whistle, Bassett lay on the field and had to be helped off by her teammates
It really was a horrible moment obviously for Laura, but you could see the regard in
which the team hold Laura, Sampson said. OK, shes hurting now, but tomorrow morning
shell wake up, shell have 22 teammates and a group of staff give her a hug and tell her
how proud we are of her.
It was a torturous finish for the sixth-ranked Lionesses, who have made their deepest run
in four World Cup appearances. England had never won an elimination game until this year.
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.
Japan will be facing whats become a familiar foe in the U.S. with a championship on the
line. It beat the Americans on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw in the 2011 World Cup final.
The U.S. responded by beating Japan 2-1 to win the gold medal at the 2012 London Games.
Overall, the U.S. is 24-1-6 against Japan.
Only the god knows the outcome, Sasaki said, looking ahead to Sunday. And Japan needs
to build up on our power. And thats what I take away from this game.
The teams traded penalty kick goals seven minutes apart in the first half.
Aya Miyama opened the scoring in the 33rd minute by driving the ball into the open left
corner while Bardsley guessed the wrong way.
The Lionesses responded on Fara Williams penalty kick in the 40th minute. She threaded a
shot just inside the left post, barely out of the reach of diving keeper Ayumi Kaihori.
England then had the Japanese on their heels during a four-minute span of the second half.
Toni Duggan, from just inside the penalty area, had her line-drive kick go off the crossbar
in the 62nd minute. A minute later, Ellen White was set up in the middle, and got a shot
off that Kaihori punched away.
And in the 66th minute, Jill Scott headed Williams corner kick just wide of the left post.
There was nothing more our team couldve done today to put that ball in the back of the
net, Sampson said. So credit Japan for hanging on in there, finding a way to get
themselves through to a final. But this team has shown the world what its capable of.
The game was played on Canada Day - the nations 148th birthday - in front of a slow-
arriving crowd. The attendance was announced at 31,467 in a stadium that holds more than
53,000. The crowd wouldve been would have been much larger had England not eliminated the
host country in the quarterfinals last weekend.
The Lionesses have already created a buzz back home as just the third English team -
including the men - to reach a World Cup semifinal, joining the 1966 champion and 1990
England began the day by receiving a royal pep talk from Prince William, who spoke to the
players and staff by phone.
Manchester United and English national team captain Wayne Rooney has become a fan. Rooney
posted a note of support on his Twitter account Wednesday, writing in part: Were all
behind you, lets go one step closer and get to the final.