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Women's Football News
England 1 (J.Scott 58) France 1 (Bussaglia 87)
France won 4-3 on penalties
att: 26,395; at Leverkusen
England's World Cup dream is over for another four years after they suffered an agonising penalty shootout defeat to France in Leverkusen.
Hope Powell's side had been within three minutes of a semi final place but had to grind their way to penalties despite being under pressure for most of the match and finishing the game with a number of players limping and extremely tired.
After the encouraging 2-0 victory over Japan, Faye White, Fara Williams and Rachel Yankey were recalled to the starting line up with Sophie Bradley, Anita Asante and Jess Clarke all dropping down to the bench. France reverted to the side which had won their two opening games apart from Celine Deville taking the place of the suspended Berangere Sapowicz.
It could have been a dream start for England as they nearly took the lead in the opening 30 seconds. Karen Carney's pass was latched on to by Kelly Smith who rounded the oncoming Deville but Laura Georges was on hand to block Smith's effort on goal.
France responded with Camille Abily firing a 25-yard shot just over the bar and the midfielder began pulling the strings as her side played some neat possession football without creating too many clear cut opportunities.
England in contrast were finding it hard to keep the ball and Ellen White, despite giving a typically selfless performance up front, found herself too isolated as the lone runner up front.
Marie-Laure Delie broke down the left and fed Gaetene Thiney in centre where her 25-yard shot brought out a good diving save from Karen Bardsley. Louisa Necib was next to go close after a corner was half cleared in her direction, she evaded a Carney challenge before drilling a low effort inches over the bar.
Bardsley did well to turn an inswinging Sonia Bompastor free kick over the bar and from the resulting corner, Sandrine Soubeyrand struck her shot just wide from the edge of the area. France continued to dictate the remainder of the half but England dug in to keep the scoreline goalless at the interval.
France picked up where they left off at the start of the second half and Delie was put through by Soubeyrand but the striker dithered and Alex Scott did well to avert the danger. However a poor clearance put England in trouble again and this Delie shot narrowly wide from the edge of the area.
After this scare, England then produced their best chance since the opening minute as Rachel Unitt crossed for Jill Scott to head just wide at the near post.
Five minutes later though and they were in front. Smith held the ball up and laid off for Yankey whose long ball was badly misjudged by Sabrina Viguier and Jill Scott fully capitalised to race through and neatly lob Deville to put her side in front.
England needed to be alert as France responded by throwing themselves in forward. There was a heart in mouth moment as a Necib free kick dipped awkwardly in front of Bardsley but she managed to block with her legs and gather the loose ball. Delie then got in on the right but shot wastefully over with Thiney better placed.
France brought on Elodie Thomis and the speedy winger began to cause England a number of problems. Firstly she made a threatening run down the right and almost set up a chance for Necib but for a fine interception by Smith, then she went even closer when powering through before her shot was well saved by Bardsley and Casey Stoney denied Delie from the rebound.
England made a double substitution, replacing both full backs with Steph Houghton and Claire Rafferty and then introducing Asante in midfield. The French pressure further intensified though and it took a smart save from Bardsley at her near post to deny Thomis and Ellen White made a superb headed goalline clearance after Laure Lepailleur's header had looked destined for goal.
However with just over two minutes left, France finally levelled the scores. Bompastor's cross could not be properly cleared and Elise Bussaglia lashed a 20-yard shot past Bardsley and in off the post.
It could have been worse as another dangerous run and cross by Thomis picked out Thiney but Asante did well to charge down her shot. England held on to take the match into extra time.
However Smith was now hobbling badly and, with all three substitutions having been made, England's taliswoman was sadly reduced to being a virtual passenger up front. With an exhausted Williams adding to their problems, things got even worse as Faye White turned an ankle and was also now struggling.
Nevertheless England's team spirit came to the fore once more, typified by the tireless Ellen White who was now playing on the left. Stoney was having a fine match in the centre, Rafferty impressively nullified the threat of Thomis and Asante won a number of vital challenges in front of the back four.
France only mustered up one chance in the first period, a long range effort from Abily which sailed harmlessly over. Indeed the best opportunity went to England, Smith doing very well to flick on a Bardsley clearance to Ellen White whose shot hit the side netting.
The second period was completely dominated by France but England, now using a blanket defence, kept them mostly out of harm's way. Eugenie Le Sommer sent a far post header over from a deflected Thomis cross but, despite Jill Scott adding to their increasing injury worries, there were no other scares and penalties were now needed.
England got off to a great start as Bardsley saved from Abily and Smith found the corner of the net. Bussaglia and Carney then scored, as did Thiney and Stoney. Bompastor levelled the scores again but Rafferty then put her shot wide. Le Sommer put France in front for the first time, leaving Faye White needing to score to send the shootout into sudden death. However the England captain's shot clipped the top of the bar to spark French celebrations - and England were out.
It was a terrible way to lose and a heartbreaking moment for the two players who missed their penalties. The shot count in the match was 33-7 in France's favour and that suggests they deserved to go through but England's battling spirit is unquestionable. France now play either Brazil or USA in the last four whilst England sadly return home and it remains to be seen whether some of the older members of the squad will continue their international careers in the future.
England: Karen Bardsley, Alex Scott (sub Steph Houghton 80mins), Rachel Unitt (sub Claire Rafferty 80mins), Jill Scott, Faye White, Casey Stoney, Karen Carney, Fara Williams, Ellen White, Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey (sub Anita Asante 84mins).
France: Celine Deville, Laure Lepailleur, Elise Bussaglia, Laura Georges, Sabrina Viguier, Sandrine Soubeyrand (sub Elodie Thomis 66mins), Louisa Necib (sub Sandrine Bretigny 79mins (sub Eugenie Le Sommer 106mins)), Sonia Bompastor, Marie-Laure Delie, Camille Abily, Gaetene Thiney.
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