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

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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.

Crystal Palace – Everton: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

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Crystal Palace – Everton: It’s a battle of perfect teams on Saturday when Everton visits Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park (Watch live at 10 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

The Eagles have knocked off Southampton and Manchester United to open their 2020-21 Premier League season while Everton has handled Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

Two legends of the game will be at the helm when Roy Hodgson and Carlo Ancelotti match wits on Saturday. Can the former continue to coax unexpected results of his Eagles against the strengthened and powerful Toffees?


Team news: Crystal Palace – Everton (INJURY REPORT)

James Tomkins (thigh), Nathan Ferguson (knee), Patrick van Aanholt (shoulder), Christian Benteke (ankle), Gary Cahill (thigh) and Jairo Riedewald (undisclosed) are all set to miss out for Roy Hodgson’s Eagles.

Fabian Delph returned for the midweek League Cup game but Everton won’t have Jarrad Branthwaite (ankle), Mason Holgate (ankle), Cenk Tosun (knee), and Jean-Philippe Gbamin (calf).


What they’re saying

Roy Hodgson on how the Eagles won (again) at Old Trafford: “We made certain and kept them playing in front of us and they could not profit from those spaces they are skillful enough to find. And when we had the ball I thought we looked very dangerous and threatening so I don’t think it was a big surprise that we scored three.”

Carlo Ancelotti after Jordan Pickford made a gaffe against Fleetwood Town: “I think the first goal was not an individual mistake because we passed the ball back to Jordan, it was a really difficult ball and we could behave differently. Of course you have to improve there. We want to build up from the back, but when there’s no risk. If it’s risky it’s no good because we can concede a goal like we did. It can be a good lesson for the future. I didn’t speak to him and, as I said, I have to speak with players that were involved when we build-up.Jordan was not the only one.”

Jordan Pickford
FLEETWOOD, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 23: Jordan Pickford of Everton is challenged by Josh Morris of Fleetwood Town (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images).

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Palace is an underdog despite beating United and it’s perhaps a bit surprising to see them at +275 with a draw at +220. An Everton win delivers +110.

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Crystal Palace – Everton prediction

Hodgson has coaxed some tremendous midfield performances out of James McArthur, James McCarthy, and Luka Milivojevic in his tenure at Palace but out-performing Abdoulaye Doucoure, Allan, and Andre Gomes is a big ask even for that steely crew. James Rodriguez is in incredible form but so is Wilfried Zaha. Couldn’t this one go either way? Yes, but if Everton’s moving in the direction many believe it will be able to take all three points in a composed 2-1 win.


How to watch Crystal Palace – Everton stream and start time

Kickoff: 10 am ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Brighton – Manchester United: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

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Brighton – Manchester United: Impressive Brighton and Hove Albion hopes to continue Manchester United’s winless league season when the Red Devils visit the Amex Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

It will be the first two meetings in several days, as Brighton’s win at Preston North End and United’s takedown of Luton Town set up a League Cup fourth round date at the Amex.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

United handled Brighton well last season, winning 3-1 and 3-0, so this will be a great test at the acumen of both managers: Graham Potter in his second full season with the Seagulls and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attempting to prove his doubters wrong.


Team news: Brighton – Manchester United (INJURY REPORT)

The Seagulls will not have Yves Bissouma, who was suspended three matches for his no-look, studs-up kick into the face of Newcastle defender Jamal Lewis. Brighton manager Graham Potter revealed that the long-term recovery of Jose Izquierdo is about two weeks away from being complete.

Manchester United will be without Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones.


What they’re saying

Potter on the League Cup win setting up consecutive Man United tests: “It’s a big week for us with those two matches and then Everton before the international break. That’s what we wanted because we wanted to go through in this competition. Players always want to play and the best thing for them is to be out on the field on nights like tonight to keep everyone in the group ready for when they’re needed. You saw that today. There was a willingness to run and fight for the team and get the result and that’s why I’m very happy.”

United’s Solskjaer after goalkeeper Dean Henderson starred on his senior debut: “The goalkeeping department and training level has been really high, of course, you can see driven and dedicated people and I’ve enjoyed watching them. Dean in goal, good save, you can see he’s having to concentrate and it’s a different job to what he’s done a few times last season and he came up with the save when he had to.”

League Cup results
LUTON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 22: Dean Henderson of Manchester United saves a shot at Kenilworth Road (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Brighton is +375 to win at home, while a draw nets the wagerer +260. Manchester United is expected to win and thusly -130 to take all three points.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Brighton – Manchester United prediction

The only thing keeping us from pegging a very impressive Brighton team to collect another win is the shadow cast by Manchester United’s 2019-20 season (and long tradition of winning). United was rusty in its loss to Crystal Palace and had to work hard to defeat Luton Town in the League Cup. If that rust was there last week, how do the legs feel after a week? Anyway, the Red Devils still have Bruno Fernandes and it just doesn’t seem like this team starts 0-2 (or even 0-1-1). I grimace as I write 2-1 to Manchester United.


How to watch Brighton – Manchester United stream and start time

Kickoff: 7:30 am ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Lampard gushes after Thiago Silva debut, Havertz hat trick

Frank Lampard reaction
Photo by ALASTAIR GRANT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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Chelsea rebounded from its weekend loss to Liverpool by getting the good vibes going through a number of new faces Wednesday in a League Cup blowout of Barnsley.

Kai Havertz scored three times, Ben Chilwell came off the bench to chip in an assist on debut, and Thiago Silva went 60 minutes in his first match in a Chelsea shirt as the Blues pounded the Championship side 6-0.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

We’ll start with the longtime PSG defender, who had four clearances, an interception, and a tackle while winning both of his duels.

He passed at 94 percent including six-of-seven long balls. Even accounting for the competition, that’s solid.

Lampard called Silva’s outing “a perfect 60 minutes” via Football.London:

“He also gave us something for me on the night in the dressing room and on the pitch of a leader with authority in terms of his demands on others,” Lampard said. “He can’t speak the language but at the minute that’s not even a problem because his presence and the way he commands people around him is already showing that to me in training and in our game tonight. Yes, I am very very pleased with Thiago. It is what I expected of a player of his level but it is very refreshing to have him here at the club.”

ProSoccerTalk talked about Chelsea’s need for a leader at the back during this week’s “Unfiltered,” and Lampard has clearly been waiting for someone like Silva.

As for Havertz, you only needed the box score to see his influence on the game.

Two of Havertz’s three goals were assisted by Tammy Abraham and a third from Mason Mount.

The German phenom also racked up five tackles and two key passes against Barnsley.

“He makes the recovery tackle for Ross (Barkley)’s goal, but then to also just have some freedom on the ball in central areas roaming behind Tammy,” Lampard said. “The combinations he had with Tammy, the way he grew into the game and had confidence and the three goals. It was a great night for Kai and the first of many for him.”

Havertz scored seven braces for Bayer Leverkusen, but this was his first hat trick. Barnsley may play in the second tier, but they had allowed three goals in their last four games.

Whoops.

Actors Reynolds, McElhenney bid to invest in Wrexham AFC

Wrexham AFC
Photos by Amy Sussman/Getty Images and Jim Spellman/WireImage
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“The Gang Buys a Football Team?”

“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” actor Rob McElhenney and “Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds are said to be in talks to buy National League side Wrexham AFC, reports The Guardian.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

The Welsh club, nicknamed the Red Dragons, was founded in 1864 and made it to the European Cup Winners’ Cup eight times between 1972-96.

They’ve since been relegated out of the Football League, dipping out of League Two in 2008.

McElhenney and Reynolds have bid to take over the club, and the Wrexham Supporters Trust says 97.5 percent of their members voted to allow the actors to propose their vision for the club before a second vote.

From wst.org.uk:

As a result, talks with the proposed bidders will now continue and we are in a position to confirm the two people interested in investing in Wrexham AFC.

Rob McElhenney is an American actor, director, producer and screenwriter, best known as the creator of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Ryan Reynolds is an award-winning Canadian actor, writer, producer and business entrepreneur whose credits include Marvel’s Deadpool.

It’s gotta get McElhenney’s goat that Reynolds gets the “award-winning” adjective added to his name.

Either way, this is definitely an intriguing club for investment and the potential addition of Reynolds and McElhenney to the fray would only increase the interest in Wrexham AFC.

Deadpool and Mac would be quite a combo in the transfer market.