Everyone in England proud of Laura Bassett - and rightly so
Carrie Dunn takes a look at the brilliant defender whose stroke of misfortune ended England's Women's World Cup campaign in agonising circumstances.
If you made a mistake in a World Cup game and it put your team out of the tournament, you would, obviously, be devastated.
Canada’s Lauren Sesselmann experienced that – she slipped in the quarter-final under pressure from England’s Jodie Taylor, who nipped in to score.
Naturally, in this glorious age of social media, she was then bombarded with messages from people criticising her, telling her to retire, and worse, threatening her.
As if she meant to slip. As if criticising someone you don’t know, threatening their safety, is going to make anything any better.
Sesselmann was crushed twice over – from her team being knocked out of the World Cup and from the messages she received.
It’s impossible, then, not to feel absolutely awful for England centre-half Laura Bassett. The record books will always show that she scored an injury-time own-goal to put Japan through to the World Cup final at the expense of her own side, but they won’t show the context.
They won’t show that Bassett had to make the challenge, had to swing her leg at the ball, in a four-against-four break.
They won’t show that Steph Houghton was struggling to stay in touch with Yuki Ogimi in the centre of the box.
They won’t show that had Bassett not thrown herself in the way of the ball, Ogimi would have had a simple tap-in.
They won’t show that the ball could have gone simply anywhere, and it was a fluke that it swirled over goalkeeper Karen Bardsley’s head.
More broadly, they won’t show that Bassett had a marvellous game and a magnificent tournament. She stood up bravely throughout, took a fierce Camille Abily elbow to the face, and formed a terrific central defence unit with Houghton. She was integral to getting the squad as far as they did, and it was an occupational hazard that put her where she was in the last minute of additional time against Japan.
Seeing Bassett collapse to the floor and howl was difficult. Her team-mates and coaches immediately surrounded her so that the cameras couldn’t invade her anguish too much.
And what was most delightful to see was that the Lionesses have so touched the nation’s hearts with their courage and class that the social media outpouring was immediately one of sympathy and pride.
If Laura Bassett cares to take a look at her Twitter mentions, she won’t find abuse – she’ll find reassurance.
And there’s even a global trending topic - #ProudofBassett. Quite rightly too.
From the start of this World Cup, England have been careful to emphasise that they’re not individuals out for themselves, they’re a team of 23.
That applies just as much in defeat as in victory. What happens to one happens to all.
All the Lionesses played a vital part in making this campaign as compelling as it has been and will be welcomed home with the roar they deserve.