Defending champion Japan advanced to the Women’s World Cup soccer final with a 2-1 victory Wednesday over England in a semifinal at Edmonton, Alberta.
The winning margin was provided by an own goal from England defender Laura Bassett, who attempted to clear the ball but accidentally sent it into the England net in the 92nd minute.
Her coach said Bassett had played good football against Japan and throughout the tournament.
“She’s epitomized all the values that English football fans want to see in that white jersey when you have three lions on your chest,” coach Mark Sampson said. “Pride, passion, never-say-die (attitude) and play for the team.”
Bassett’s nightmare came as Japan’s Nahomi Kawasumi sent a bouncing cross into the penalty area with about one minute left in the contest. Bassett, with a Japan attacker getting past her, lunged at the ball with her right leg and meant to send it out of bounds.
Instead, it looped past England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, who had no chance as the ball sneaked in, hitting the underside of the crossbar and touching ground well past the goal line.
Each team had scored earlier on a penalty kick in the first half. Japan’s Aya Miyama converted from the penalty spot in the 33rd minute to give Japan a 1-0 lead. Fara Williams knocked home her spot kick in the 40th minute to draw England level.
Though Japan had a decided edge in possession, England outshot their opponents 15-7.
“Our goal was to go to the final and in that sense the players did what they had to do,” Japan Coach Norio Sasaki said, according to a FIFA translator.
Sasaki said it was a tough match, where his team had to adjust its game plan because of the direct tactics of England.
England had some excellent chances to break the deadlock in the second half. Toni Duggan’s screamer hit the crossbar in the 62nd minute and just two minutes later substitute Ellen White forced Ayumi Kaihori into a fine diving save to her right.
Japan will meet two-time champion United States on Sunday in a rematch of the 2011 World Cup final.
Japan and the U.S. played to a 2-2 tie four years ago, and Japan won the penalty-kick shootout 3-1.
The United States gained a measure of revenge the next year, downing Japan 2-1 in the Olympic women’s gold medal match.
England will play Germany on Saturday for third place.