England make history in triumphant third-place play-off

England 1 – Germany 0

After a crushing 2-1 defeat to Japan in last week’s semi-final, England were able to put those demons behind them and salvage some pride against a formidable German outfit. The England squad showed tremendous resilience in a game that proved this Women’s World Cup campaign to be more than just somewhat of a success.

The penalty scored by Fara Williams late in the extra-time period resulted in the highest World Cup finish by any English football side since 1966 and also, the redemption of last week’s unfortunate own-goal scorer, Laura Bassett. With a response of utter fury from some of the German players when the penalty was awarded, providing stark contrast to the unashamed elation of England manager Mark Sampson, the significance of this moment was plain to see.

England’s performance began rather hesitantly, as if the team were very much still licking their wounds from the semi-final and subsequently, the team looked vulnerable at the back as Strikers Petermann and Sasic seemed to be putting the English goal-line under constant pressure. With all eyes on Bassett, the centre-back was able to display the grit and determination that led to Sampson keeping her on the field after last week’s calamity and she soon spearheaded what became an English defensive rock – with usual Midfielder Jo Potter fitting in nicely.

With the defence seemingly sorted, England provided a dangerous attacking threat which was often created and executed by the outstanding Lucy Bronze, who showed remarkable vision and speed to break the German line and put her strikers in good positions. Aside from another attacking blitz from the Germans at the beginning of the second half (which Bassett and her fellow defenders weathered with staggering resilience) this was clearly England’s game. The likes of Eni Aluko (who proved to be a wise substitution) and Bronze looked threatening whenever they touched the ball and in the end, the penalty goal was the just reward for a side that had brought intensity in attack and solidarity in defence.

Sampson’s team really can be viewed as a success story, not just for British women’s sport but for British sport as a whole. This squad has captured the nation’s attention with a campaign that was as emotional as it was entertaining and consequently, one cannot help but feel that Britain’s longstanding apathy towards women’s sport is truly a thing of the past.

James Candler

image credit: sports.yahoo.com

 

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