England lost to Japan in the Women’s World Cup semifinal in the most heartbreaking way possible, giving up an own goal in the final minute and losing 2-1.
The goal was incredibly unlucky for England. If Laura Bassett doesn’t deflect the ball, the Japan attacker is almost certainly going to have a 1-on-1 with the goalie at point blank range, and if the deflection is one inch higher or one foot to the right, the ball caroms in a different direction and doesn’t go in the goal.
Of course, none of that was going to make Bassett feel better after the game. She was in tears and inconsolable on the field, and understandably so.
But once the shock wears off, Bassett can lean on the comments of her coach, Mark Sampson, who delivered some moving comments in support of both Bassett and the rest of the team during the post-match press conference:
“What a tough one to take. Listen, I can’t speak about the game. All I can speak about is how incredibly proud I am of my group, the players, the staff … this is an England team that has just given their all. As people, they sacrificed so much this tournament and they gave everything, absolutely everything. We’re a team who will go home knowing that we could not have done any more, given any more ounce of blood, sweat, or tears, smiles, whatever it was, we could not have given any more. We gave our all … the way Laura Bassett played today and in this tournament. She has epitomized all the values English football fans want to see in that white jersey when you’ve got three lions [the national team logo] on your chest. Pride, passion, never say die, and play for the team. OK, she’s hurting now. Tomorrow morning she’ll wake up, she’ll have 22 teammates, group of staff, give her a hug, tell her how proud we are of her, and we’ll all do the same for the whole group … You can see the regard in which the team hold Laura and all their teammates in their reaction. Of course, every single member of my group is devastated. When that ball went over the line we were devastated. But our first point of call is look out for your own. Laura is one of us. She’s one of our team. We get around her. We console her. We’re going to cry. And we tell her how proud we are of her. Because without her we wouldn’t be in the semifinal.”
Sampson, who appeared to be fighting back tears of his own during the press conference, is just 32 years old, but he speaks with a level of class like a veteran manager who has been through this before.
Prior to the tournament, England was given just a 3% chance to win the World Cup, 8th among the 24 teams. So making it to within 30 minutes of penalty kicks with a shot at making the final was a grand success and will undoubtedly do much to help grow the sport of women’s soccer in England.
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