England head coach Mark Sampson wasted no time in branding Laura Bassett a hero following her last-minute World Cup heartbreak.
The Notts County defender – who has been a standout player for the Lionesses in their run to the last four – was left speechless after scoring a stoppage-time own-goal that sent England out after matching world champions Japan for 90 minutes.
Japan 2-1 England
FIFA Women's World Cup 2015
Thursday 2 July
Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton
Holding back the tears, Sampson said: “I want to say straight away that Laura Bassett’s name is on that scoresheet but she has epitomised this England team.
“She didn’t deserve that and she should be remembered as an absolute hero.
“People will remember the Laura Bassett who headed and blocked and tackled. She has stayed strong and kept this team together.”
Japan took the lead on 33 minutes, with Aya Miyama scoring a disputed penalty, but soon after England were level. Steph Houghton was brought down following a set-piece and Fara Williams fired home from the spot.
“They left everything on the field and they couldn’t have done any more”
Mark Sampson England head coach
England proceeded to dominate Japan and twice hit the woodwork, only to breach their own goal with seconds of stoppage time remaining.
Sampson admitted many of his players were inconsolable.
He told BBC One: “I just said that it’s OK to cry. They left everything on the field and they couldn’t have done any more.
“It’s just a really tough way to go out of the tournament."
He added: “I’m just so proud of them. We came to this tournament as huge underdogs with the weight of the nation on our backs.
“People said we weren’t good enough to get this far – but they have inspired the nation and deserve to go back home as heroes.”