Bassett’s long journey takes cruel twist, but England women show future is bright

1 Comment

Laura Bassett started playing soccer in Bedworth, right smack dab in the center of England, at about the same time FIFA got around to sponsoring a women’s World Cup in 1991 (officially, the 1st FIFA World Championship for Women’s Football for the M&M’s Cup). Bedworth was a tiny club, and women’s soccer was still something that had gained as much resistance as traction (the FA wouldn’t sponsor an English national team until two years later), but that didn’t stop her.

At 13, she moved to nearby Coventry, at 17 to bigger Birmingham, where she played for eight years in obscurity, except to the small amount of people in England who recognized that women played football. At 19, she debuted for England, and has been in and out of the national team lineup for the last 12 years. Along that time, her nomadic career (she did stay at Birmingham for eight seasons) continued with stops with the New York Magic of the USL W-League, Arsenal, Leeds, back to Birmingham, to Chelsea, and to Notts County, where she’ll play this season.

Bassett finally clawed her way onto a World Cup roster in 2011, but played in just one match (ironically in a win over Japan). The following year, in what stood to be the most high-profile tournament of her career, the Olympics in Great Britain, Bassett was left off the Great Britain roster (which was 18 players at the Olympics instead of 23 at this World Cup), and had to watch from the stands.

But, although she’ll turn 32 years old next month, here was Bassett this month in Canada leading an English defense that looked ready to go all the way to the World Cup final. She took an elbow to the face from Gaetane Thiney in the opener against France, but it was going to take more than that to get her out of the lineup she waited so long to break into.

And then, as England pushed for a winner in second-half stoppage time of the World Cup semifinals with their whole nation behind them, Japan broke down the right side with Bassett retreating as quickly as she could. She was in good position to cut off a cross, but she stumbled as the ball didn’t get to her quite as fast as she thought. She was able to get a toe to it, and 99 times out of 100 may have been lauded as a hero when the ball floated harmlessly out for a corner kick.

As we know now, this one didn’t.

Instead it flew over the head of helpless England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, off the crossbar, and across the goal line by a yard. The moment Bassett could never dreamed of when she was a little girl, with the whole soccer world watching, ended with her inconsolable as England’s dream came to an end in the worst possible way, a 2-1 loss to Japan.

(It wasn’t the first time Bassett had been involved in a game-winning own goal. In Euro 2013, Bassett scored one of her two international goals only to see Spain win on a late own goal from Bardsley. England eventually did not escape the group stages, which led to the dismissal of long-time coach Hope Powell.)

We’ve already established at this World Cup that sports aren’t fair, but we learned something else on Wednesday. The outpouring of support for Bassett began almost immediately and came from all corners of the women’s soccer world. Everyone had been in a situation like Bassett at one time or another in their careers, and they knew how she must feel at this moment. They know, even though it’s a World Cup and a moment she worked her whole life for, that one moment should not define who she is, either as a player or a person.

They also know that these England players — especially Bassett, who was outstanding Wednesday — have absolutely nothing to hang their heads about. They were fantastic, and were probably slightly better (certainly on crossbars hit) against the defending world champions. Like France, the soccer gods just weren’t on their side on this night.

So while Bassett and England will always wonder what might have been, they’ll also know they left everything they possibly could on the artificial turf in Edmonton. And that’s all you can ever do.

What else did we learn Wednesday?

1) England’s transformation over the course of the World Cup was amazing
In a match now lost to history as many early group stage matches in a tournament become, England – with almost the same exact lineup it took the field with Wednesday – was dreadful in a loss to France. Yes, they only lost 1-0, but they never looked like they wanted to attack, content to sit back and defend, managing just three shots and no shots on goal until a hopeful long-range effort in stoppage time. Some three weeks later, they were all over a similarly technical team like Japan, giving them no space or time, and taking the match to them on set pieces and Japanese mistakes rarely seen in any other match. Lucy Bronze likely played her way onto the all-tournament team and several other English players showed well, as did their coach Mark Sampson, who figured it out as the tournament went along.

2) The ending should not take away from Japan’s accomplishments
Other games now lost to history are the two friendlies Japan and the United States played leading up to the 2011 World Cup, both completely dominated by the U.S. Of course, Japan stunningly won the World Cup a couple of months later, but will now go to its third straight major international final (all three against the U.S.). Before 2011, Japan had gotten out of a group stage of the World Cup only once (1995), and did have a fourth place at the Olympics in 2008, but that was mostly considered a fluke thanks to a kind draw (the U.S. dispatched of them 4-2 in the semifinals and Germany beat them easily in the bronze-medal game). You can argue they were a little lucky on Wednesday, but their success over the last four years is certainly not attributable to just good fortune.

3) Anna-Marie Keighley was a little over her head, but …
Keighley missed two first-half penalty calls, and generally looked nervous in this contest, which leads us to wonder why someone as inexperienced as she is would be in the middle of such a huge match. She celebrated her 33rd birthday on Tuesday, and only started officiating at any level in 2005. Although she did have some experience at the U-17 World Cup, how many high-level matches could she possibly have refereed in New Zealand? So (as Equalizer contributor Jennifer Gordon pointed out as well) it becomes a chicken and egg thing. We want experienced officials, but where are they supposed to get the experience in big women’s matches if there aren’t any? Still, putting a young referee from Oceania on a match like this seems to be asking for trouble.

[MORE: FIFA explains all-female referee crew for Women’s World Cup]

4) Can we get Great Britain in the Olympics?
I’m no British citizen, but it seems like this English team has earned the right to play at the Olympics in Brazil next summer. And they would be even better with the addition of someone like a Kim Little or a Jess Fishlock, likely medal contenders. But politics still trumps soccer, I guess. Maybe they’ll do it for Laura Bassett?

5) On to the finals
The United States will enter as massive favorites after they were much more impressive in their semifinal, but they were four years ago as well. The biggest problem for Japan is how they will be able to keep the ball against the expected pressure of the U.S. and beyond that, how they’ll score. But, again, they managed to do it twice four years ago, so ruling them out completely seems extremely unwise. But we’ll see.

Senegal edges epic battle with Ecuador to clinch last 16 spot


Senegal beat Ecuador to reach the last 16 of the World Cup, as the Lions of Terranga rallied to knock out the South Americans.


Ismaila Sarr put Senegal ahead from the penalty spot but Moises Caicedo equalized in the second half and a draw would have been enough to send Ecuador through at Senegal’s expense.

[ MORE: Group A – Table, rankings, results, schedule ]

Cometh the hour, cometh the man as Senegal’s captain Kalidou Koulibaly scored the winner to send his country through to the knockout rounds for just the second time in their history.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Stars of the show

Kalidou Koulibaly: Scored the famous goal to send Senegal through and was dominant at the back. Led by example.

Ismaila Sarr: Another of one Senegal’s stars stood tall as he scored the opener and gave them an outlet. Sadio Mane would be proud of this display.

How to watch Ecuador vs Senegal live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Tuesday, November 29
Stadium: Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

GOAL! Moments later Koulibaly puts Senegal back in front. What drama. Now Senegal are going through instead of Ecuador.

GOAL! Ecuador equalize. Brighton’s Moises Caicedo slots home after a flick on. As it stands, Ecuador going through ahead of Senegal.

GOAL! Hincapie clatters into Ismaila Sarr and he slots home the resulting spot kick. Senegal lead.

What a start from Senegal! Idrissa Gana Gueye slams a shot wide and Ismaila Sarr sees a deflected effort fly just wide. Ecuador have yet to get going.

Key storylines, players to watch closely

Enner Valencia has obviously been the main man for Ecuador with his three goals so far but Gonzalo Plata and Michael Estrada have been excellent alongside him in attack. Brighton duo Moises Caicedo and Pervis Estupinan have been superb too, while Angelo Preciado has been electric down the right flank.

Senegal’s defense has looked a bit shaky, even with Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly back there. In midfield Idrissa Gana Gueye was much better against Qatar and Ismaila Sarr continues to do his best to fill the huge void left by Sadio Mane.

Ecuador quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 44
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 3
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (4th place)
Coach: Gustavo Alfaro
Key players: Enner Valencia, Moises Caicedo, Pervis Estupinan

Senegal quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 18
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 2
How they qualified: Beat Egypt in CAF playoff
Coach: Aliou Cisse
Key players: Idrissa Gana Gueye, Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly

Iran vs USA: How to watch live, USMNT stream link, team news


The USA seeks a return to the knockout rounds and that’ll only come with a win over Iran at 2pm ET Tuesday inside Al Thumama Stadium in Al Khor.


It doesn’t matter what Wales does vs England at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan because England already has four points and a draw would give Iran four as well.

The Yanks’ two draws mandate a win-or-go-home mentality on Saturday and there are multiple generations worth of redemption up for grabs after the USMNT was felled by Iran at the 1998 World Cup and failed to qualify for the 2018 tourney in Russia.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

How can Gregg Berhalter unlock the USMNT attack to get the goal or goals he’ll need to reach a date with Group B’s winner or runner-up?

Here is everything you need for Iran vs USA.

How to watch Iran vs USA live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Tuesday Nov. 29
Stadium: Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Key storylines, players to watch closely

For Iran, it’s about riding the momentum of a huge win after finding inspiration in a huge loss. There’s an ocean’s worth of difference in emotion between the 6-2 tournament-opening loss to England in Al Rayyan and the 2-0 triumph over Wales In the same city. Can Mehdi Taremi or Sardar Azmoun succeed where Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling could not and break down the USMNT defense for a goal?

Meanwhile, the Yanks may still be lamenting a 1-1 draw with Wales as much as they are celebrating a strong performance that kept them unbeaten against England at the World Cup after a scoreless draw with Gareth Southgate’s men In Al Khor. Gregg Berhalter has to find a way to unlock the USMNT’s final-third woes when they hit Al Khor on Tuesday.

There has also been some off-field tension brewing between the U.S. and Iran surrounding this game, as Gregg Berhalter and captain Tyler Adams responded to in a tense press conference amid questions from the Iranian press.

Iran quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 20
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC (Won Group A)
Coach: Dragan Skocic
Key players: Ehsan Hajsafi, Sardar Azmoun, Mehdi Taremi

USA quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 16
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 9
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONCACAF (3rd place)
Coach: Gregg Berhalter
Key players: Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams

USMNT scenarios to advance: How can USA qualify for the World Cup last 16?’


Everyone wants to figure out the USMNT scenarios to reach the knockout rounds.

“How can the USMNT qualify for the last 16 of the World Cup and make it out of the group stage?”

[ LIVE: Watch World Cup en Espanol en Peacock

That is the question you will hear time and time again ahead of their Group B finale against Iran on Tuesday, November 29 at 2pm ET.

This is intense.

[ MORE: Group B schedule, rankings, table ]

As the information below tells you, the USMNT scenarios is now very simple for Gregg Berhalter’s young side.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

After their draws against Wales and England to kick off Group B play, it all goes down to the final 90 minutes against Iran to see whether or not they can reach the last 16 of the World Cup in Qatar.

Group B table heading into final group stage game

1. England – 4 points (+4 GD)
2. Iran – 3 points (-2)
3. USA – 2 points (0 GD)
4. Wales – 1 point (-2 GD)

Group B remaining schedule

Tuesday, November 29: Wales vs England – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm
Tuesday November 29: Iran vs USA – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm

How the USA can qualify for the last 16

  • Win against Iran

How the USA will not qualify for the last 16

  • Draw against Iran
  • Lose against Iran

Wales vs England: How to watch live, stream link, team news


Being dubbed as ‘The Battle of Britain’ this clash in the Group B finale between Wales and England has plenty on the line.

There is no love lost between these bitter rivals.


England know anything other than a four-goal or more defeat to Wales means they are in the last 16, while a win for the Three Lions would guarantee them top spot in Group B ahead of Wales, Iran and the USA. Gareth Southgate’s side need an impressive performance to go with any win as their fanbase was far from happy with their lackluster display in the 0-0 draw against the USA last Friday.

[ MORE: Group B standings, schedule, results ]

As for Wales, their situation is clear: they have to win to have a chance of reaching the last 16 and then they will hope that Iran vs USA in their other Group B game ends in a draw. That could happen but Wales need to improve drastically on their two showings so far as their star players have looked off the pace and they deservedly lost against Iran last time out.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for Wales vs England.

How to watch Wales vs England live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET – Tuesday, November 29
Stadium: Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Key storylines, players to watch closely

The Welsh have not made the most of their second trip to the World Cup in their history. They were dominated in the first half of their opener against the U.S. but showed good spirit to battle back for a point late on. Against Iran they were second best throughout and a late red card to Wayne Hennessey was followed by two late Iranian goals and Robert Page could have no complaints as his team failed to show up. Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale have had superb careers but injuries have hit them hard in recent years and this looks like a tournament too far for Wales’ star duo.

As for England, the vultures are circling back home as Gareth Southgate is under pressure once again for what many believe are overly cautious tactics. Against the U.S. they huffed and puffed without really creating clear-cut chances and were pretty lucky to escape with a draw. Even though England are all but guaranteed a spot in the last 16, the Three Lions fans expect more from Harry Kane and Co. after they reached the World Cup semifinals four years ago and were runners up in the European Championships just over a year ago. Southgate is expected to make quite a few changes to his lineup as the likes of Phil Foden, Kalvin Phillips and Marcus Rashford could feature from the start.

Wales quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 19
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 1
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs, Path B
Coach: Rob Page
Key players: Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies

England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Pickford