England were knocked out of the Women’s World Cup in heartbreaking fashion as Laura Bassett’s unfortunate injury-time own goal saw them lose 2-1 to the holders, Japan in Edmonton.
The Lionesses were attempting to eclipse the 1966 men’s side and become only the second England team to reach a World Cup final, and they looked on course to take the current champions to extra time after Fara Williams’ penalty cancelled out Aya Miyama’s spot-kick for their Asian opponents.
However, with just a minute of injury-time remaining, Bassett stuck out a foot from a cross which looped over Karen Bardsley’s head and in via the crossbar in a cruel twist.
Mark Sampson’s side had no time to respond and Bassett, much like Paul Gascoigne in 1990, was inconsolable at the final whistle.
England started the match brightly and Jodie Taylor had a chance in the first minute, sending a shot narrowly wide of the far post.
Japan quickly got their possession game going though, and opened the scoring after half an hour when Claire Rafferty was adjudged to have pushed Saori Ariyoshi in the area as she ran towards goal, although the initial contact appeared to be outside the box.
Miyama sent Bardsley the wrong way from the spot, but the Lionesses were only to trail for eight minutes, and it would be another penalty that brought them level.
In another dubious decision, captain Steph Houghton was clipped in the box by Yuki Ogimi, allowing Williams to score.
Sampson’s side were the better team in the second half, with Toni Duggan, who started the match ahead of Karen Carney, striking the crossbar from outside the area, before substitute Ellen White had a curling effort well saved.
Jill Scott, who also hit the bar with a looping cross, then headed narrowly wide from another Williams corner.
Then, just as the match appeared to be heading for another 30 minutes, Bassett’s unfortunate moment took place.
England will now face Germany in the third place play-off in Edmonton on Saturday night, while, in a repeat of the final four years ago, Japan will face the USA in Vancouver in the early hours of Monday morning.