An emotional Lucy Bronze has admitted that England’s last-gasp World Cup semi-final defeat against Japan will ‘hurt for a long time’.
The Lionesses exited the tournament in heartbreaking fashion as Laura Bassett’s second-half injury-time own goal sent the reigning champions into Sunday’s final.
England had looked on course to take the Olympic silver medallists to extra time after Fara Williams’s penalty cancelled out Aya Miyama’s spot-kick.
But as the game entered the 92nd minute, Bassett diverted a rare Japanese cross over goalkeeper Karen Bardsley’s head, the ball hitting the crossbar and agonisingly bouncing over the line.
It was a painful way to suffer elimination and Bronze, from Alnwick, admits it will take a while to get over the pain.
The 23-year-old, who was substituted in the 74th minute after picking up an injury, said: “This one is going to hurt for a long time. It is so disappointing to lose in the fashion we did, in a game we could have easily got more out of. That’s not to take away from Japan, they are a great team and a humble nation. We, as a team, wish them well for the final.”
Before the game, Bronze admitted that Japan would pose a tough test, but insisted that England were not scared of them. And for periods of the match, particularly in the second half, England were on top. They hit the woodwork on a number of occasions, Jill Scott headed inches wide from a Williams corner and Ellen White had a curling shot saved.
But it wasn’t to be, as Bassett’s freak own goal burst England’s World Cup bubble and dashed their dreams of reaching their first World Cup final and only England’s second after the men’s team’s victory in 1966. Instead, Mark Sampson’s Lionesses will now face Germany in the match for third place on Saturday (kick off 9pm BST).
Bronze said: “We know our World Cup isn’t completely over. We still have one more game, one more chance at a bitter sweet World Cup ending. We are ready to take that final game by the scruff of the neck and bring back some pride our England team.”
The Manchester City defender has been one of England’s stand-out performers at the tournament, scoring two goals in the knockout stage. The first was a screamer from distance to inspire England to a 2-1 win over Norway in the last-16, before heading in the nation’s second against hosts Canada in the quarter-final.
Her proud mother Diane and sister Sophie travelled out to North America after England’s triumph over Canada.