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Japan 2 (Miyama pen 30, Bassett og 90) England 1 (Williams pen 40)
England's World Cup dreams came crashing down around them in the cruellest and most heartbreaking fashion as an injury time own goal from the unfortunate Laura Bassett gave Japan a 2-1 semi final victory.
England had given their best performance of the tournament and outplayed Japan for long periods of the game, particularly for most of the second half when they struck the woodwork twice and went close on other occasions before fate dealt a vicious blow and gave them no time to recover.
Mark Sampson opted to make one change to his starting line up with Toni Duggan coming in to replace Karen Carney, whilst Karen Bardsley and Fara Williams were passed fit to play after injuries had forced them to go off during the quarter final victory over Canada.
It could have been a dream start for England as Jodie Taylor fired a shot inches past the post in the opening minute of the game from a similar position to where she scored in the previous game.
England were playing a high pressing game, designed to prevent Japan from settling into their normal passing rhythm and the plan looked to be working, the Japanese were struggling to get going in the early stages.
A long free kick pumped into the area did cause problems for the England defence, the ball bouncing awkwardly in front of Karen Bardsley who managed to touch it over the bar, although a goal kick was mistakenly awarded. England hit back straight away to win a throw deep in Japanese territory, Katie Chapman teeing up Toni Duggan who fired a snapshot over.
However as the game hit the half hour mark, controversy once again struck a World Cup match. A long ball over the England defence initially caught Claire Rafferty out of position and Saori Ariyoshi raced towards the area where she was pushed over by the England full back and a penalty was awarded. The foul looked to be outside the area but Aya Miyama stepped up and coolly found the corner of the net, sending Bardsley the wrong way.
Any sense of injustice felt by England lasted just nine minutes though, a corner was not cleared away and Steph Houghton went down under a challenge from Yuki Ogimi and a second penalty was awarded. Contact did look to have been minimal at best but Fara Williams this time demonstrated her composure to beat Ayumi Kaihori from the spot and level the scores.
The England players continued their pressing game after the break and pushed Japan back, stopping the likes of Mizuho Sakaguchi and Miyama to dictate the play as normal with the likes of Chapman and Jade Moore snapping into tackles, whilst Jill Scott worked tirelessly on the right.
As the hour mark passed, England went within inches of going in front. Duggan received the ball on the edge of the area and fired a shot which beat Kaihori but came back off the bar. Within a couple of minutes, Jill Scott won possession in the Japanese half and Katie Chapman fed Ellen White whose left foot shot was turned away by Kaihori at full stretch.
Scott then headed inches wide from a Williams corner as England continue to push hard against a clearly rattled Japan side who were struggling to cope with their opponents' aerial threat.
Japan introduced Mana Iwabuchi for the ineffective Shinobu Ohno and the striker made an early impact, one good run down the left being followed by a jinking run which took her past two challenges before dragging her shot wide of the near post.
There were signs though that England were beginning to look fatigued and lost Bronze to injury whilst Williams later had to be replaced with Alex Scott and Karen Carney coming on for them.
Mizuho Sakaguchi was next to go close for Japan with a far post header which sailed just wide, after Iwabuchi had laid back for Miyama to cross. However lady luck nearly smiled on England at the other end as an overhit Rafferty cross bounced on the bar with Kaihori nowhere.
Another free kick led to more problems at the back for Japan, Kaihori missing her punch under pressure from Chapman before the ball was scrambled away.
However as the game went into injury time, disaster struck in the cruellest possible way. With England pushing forward for a winner, Japan broke down the right through Nahmoi Kawasumi who slid a dangerous pass into the area intended for Yuki Ogimi. Bassett stretched in an attempt to intercept but could only look on in horror as the ball flew off her boot and past a helpless Bardsley, striking the underside of the bar and just crossing the line before spinning back out, Ogimi following up to make sure.
There was no time for any recovery and moments later the England players lay stunned as things sunk in while Japan celebrated. A distraught Bassett was comforted by her team mates but there was no consoling the defender who had had a magnificent match and did not deserve such a cruel fate.
Although England can no longer win the tournament, they are not out of it, and have a chance of a bronze medal when they play Germany in the Third/Fourth Place play-off match in Edmonton on Saturday. United States meanwhile will start as hot favourites in the Final but, given their fortune in this game and late scrambled winner in the quarter final against Australia, Japan may well have their name written on the crown once again.
Japan: Ayumi Kaihori, Saori Ariyoshi, Azusa Iwashimizu, Saki Kumagai, Aya Sameshima, Mizuho Sakaguchi, Yuki Ogimi, Aya Miyama, Nahomi Kawasumi, Rumi Utsugi, Shinobu Ohno (sub Mana Iwabuchi 70mins).
England: Karen Bardsley, Lucy Bronze (sub Alex Scott 75mins), Claire Rafferty, Fara Williams (sub Karen Carney 85mins), Steph Houghton, Laura Bassett, Jill Scott, Katie Chapman, Jodie Taylor (sub Ellen White 59mins), Jade Moore, Toni Duggan.
Player of the match: Saori Ariyoshi.
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