Coach Mark Sampson labelled Laura Bassett “an absolute hero” after the defender scored an own goal to eliminate England on Wednesday.
Japan triumphed 2-1 in the Women’s World Cup semi-final in Edmonton thanks to Bassett’s late misfortune, to reach back-to-back deciders.
In the second minute of second-half stoppage time, Bassett sprinted back towards England’s goal as Japan launched a late attack.
As the cross came in from the right, Bassett swung her boot at it, in an attempt to stop it from reaching a goal-side opponent, but the 31-year-old only managed to boot the ball in off the underside of the crossbar.
But in a tearful post-match interview, England’s boss threw his support behind Bassett, who was distraught after the final whistle.
“It really is heartbreaking. I think we have to first and foremost congratulate the players for an incredible tournament,” Sampson said.
“Laura Bassett’s name is on that scoresheet but she has epitomised the team. She has been courageous, strong and she doesn’t deserve that. She is a hero, an absolute hero, that is how she will be remembered.
“I’ve told them it’s OK to cry, they left everything on the field and it’s a really tough way to go out. I’m so proud of them. We came here as a huge underdog with the weight of a nation on our back. We had critics and they have inspired a nation and they deserve to go home as heroes.”
Fara Williams, who scored England’s first-half penalty to cancel out Aya Miyama’s spot-kick, also attempted to console Bassett.
“As a squad we are proud to push the world champions to the wire. We really pushed them, our game plan was spot on and a fluke goal has got them through,” Williams said.
“Laura Bassett feels like she has let everyone down but she has given everything for England.”
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