England woman lost to Japan in the World Cup semifinal under tragic circumstances but they didn’t allow themselves to be taken over by disappointment. Mark Sampson ensured that his ward didn’t keep on clutching to Laura Bassett’s own goal in the semifinal and play the third-place play-off against Germany with a positive frame of mind. The theme was that despite England failing to reach the World Cup final, the next match had to be played with the fullest commitment. The 32-year old Welshman Mark Sampson told the women that they were capable of beating Germany and he proved right in the end. Now England will return home with the set of bronze medals awarded to the tournament’s third-placed side. The coach himself was overjoyed when he said that he was incredibly proud with England’s victory over Germany, even if it came after so many years. He knew that the whole nation supported him since victory over Germany amounted to England being the best women football team in Europe. He admitted that losing to Japan was tough but England would go back home after achieving something special.
Coach Sampson risked playing Jo Potter, normally a midfielder, alongside Steph Houghton and Laura Bassett to complete the defense trinity. The whole idea was to restrict German firebrand Celia Sasic from creating havoc on English goal. When Laura Bassett’s name was announced on public address system before kick-off, Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium greeted the Englishwoman to reduce her agony of her stoppage-time own goal in Wednesday’s semi-final against Japan. As the match began, Germany went into attack immediately. England came close to another ignominy of an own goal by Jo Potter, when she looked like sending a German cross past England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley. But fortunately for her, Steph Houghton rescued England and Potter. Houghton had a presence of mind to clear the ball with an acrobatic display in a last-gasp attempt. Tournament’s leading goal scorer Sasic lacked a bit of imagination when she got a chance but her shot could only find Bardsley’s grateful arms. After these early forays by Germany, England found their own attacking chances. Steph Houghton came close to scoring and thought that Germany’s Tabea Kemme had handled the ball but the referee was not convinced. Lucy Bronze was able to rattle the German goalkeeper and justified her status as one of World Cup’s top stars as she made some promising moves from the right flank. By half-time, Germany had played better and found more goal-scoring chances than England.
England dished out somewhat better performance in the second half. But when Germany attacked, England’s performance was not found wanting. The best goal scoring chance came Germany’s way, when Sasic’s dangerous cross was picked up by Sara Dabritz but she was thwarted by Bardsley. Both sides tried to get the lead as the clock ticked away and Germany in particular tried many long-range shots. At the end of 90 minutes of regulation time, the score was still 0-0.
The first extra-half period went the same way as the rest of the match earlier. But in the second period, the breakthrough finally arrived. Germany’s Kemme brought down Lianne Sanderson in the box and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Every German player protested but the referee was unrelenting. It was here that Fara Williams stepped up and produced a low kick that sent German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer the wrong way. Not much time remained after that and as the whistle blew England team members on the field and those on the benches ran to the field in hugging each other in joyous celebrations.