England's tragic heroines will transform game back home, says coach Mark Sampson
England coach Mark Sampson says his team's march to the last four of the Women's World Cup, which ended with a heartbreaking loss to Japan in Wednesday's semi-final, should be the catalyst for major improvements in the game back home.
Laura Bassett's 92nd minute own goal gifted Japan a 2-1 victory in Edmonton but an emotional Sampson said the first ever appearance for the Lionesses in a semi-final should encourage efforts to improve the sport in England.
"What this team have done for the women's game back home, I know will have a lasting legacy, because the way this team has gone out, as hard as it is, will make them even bigger heroes," Sampson told reporters.
The England coach then made a direct appeal to those involved in domestic women's soccer to help improve the game further.
"Come on everyone back home, let's raise the bar. Let's build on what this team has done," he said.
Mark Sampson, left, had only praise for Laura Bassett, centre, after her late own goal condemned England to defeatPA Sport
"I know I am going to demand that everyone back home really ups their game and we commit everything we can to keep growing this sport in our country," the Welshman added.
England have struggled to break into the elite of the women's game but with wins over Norway and hosts Canada in the knockout stage before their agonising loss to the defending champions, they have shown they can compete with the best.
England's Toni Duggan wipes away a tear after her squad's 2-1 loss to Japan in the FIFA Women's World Cup semi-finals at Commonwealth Stadium in EdmontonAFP
However, Sampson said the bar needs to be set even higher.
"We have some amazing people involved in the game in our country and I know they are hurting right now but I know, come tomorrow morning, they are going to get up and say 'let's keep this snowball rolling', let's make sure that next time we go to a major championship, England has got the strongest women's football programme in the world," he added.
"We have that potential, just because of the quality of people we have got in our programme. We needed a catalyst and this team has been that. So no more excuses, no more catalysts needed. Now it is about -- let's stay together, let's raise the bar and let's nail it -- let's get it done. Why not?"