By Alan Duffy
England suffered semi-final heartbreak late in the early hours of Thursday after losing 2-1 to Japan, courtesy of a last-minute freak own-goal.
Mark Sampson’s side started brightly, with Jodie Taylor going close early on.
Man City striker Toni Duggan then threatened for the Lionesses as Japan struggled to find their trademark passing rhythm.
However, eventually, Nadeshiko Japan started to dominate.
The opening goal then came on the half-hour mark, with Japan captain Aya Miyama coolly converting a penalty after Claire Rafferty had felled Saori Ariyoshi, albeit with the contact initiated well outside the box.
However, the Lionesses were level with eight minutes, with Fara Williams converting another spot-kick after captain Steph Houghton went down far too easily in the Japan box.
After the break, England started to take control, with Duggan hitting the woodwork.
Sub Ellen White then forced a decent save out of Ayumi Kaihori.
While Jill Scott headed just wide from a cross when she really should have hit the target.
But then, with the game headed towards extra-time, a Japan counter-attack culminated in the superb Laura Bassett diverting a low cross in off the underside of the cross bar. A horrible way to lose the game and crash out of the competition.
Notts County defender Bassett was understandably distraught at the final whistle.
However, the overall performance of Mark Sampson’s side will hopefully see the women’s game now push on in England. As for Japan, they now face a replay of the 2011 final against the USA.
Photos: Getty Images