EDMONTON, Alberta — Though Mark Sampson already knew what answer he would get, England’s coach felt obligated to ask defender Laura Bassett whether she was emotionally ready for one more game at the Women’s World Cup.
“She looked back in my eye, and said, ‘I’m in for the team,’” Sampson said Friday. “It was an easy answer, wasn’t it?”
Three days after Bassett left the field sobbing when her stoppage-time own goal gave Japan a 2-1 semifinal win, No. 6 England meets top-ranked Germany for third place today.
Sampson said Bassett will assuredly start at center back after encouragement from her entire team and support from fans back home.
“She’s in a good place now,” Sampson said. “I’m 100 percent certain it’s right for the team that Laura plays [today]. And I’m very confident Laura and the team will produce another big performance.”
The Germans have their own motivations to bounce back following a 2-0 loss to the United States on Tuesday. With a chance to put Germany ahead, Celia Sasic sent a 59th-minute penalty kick wide. The Americans scored 10 minutes later on a penalty kick of their own.
“Of course, this particular experience was bitter. But she was able to digest it well. And she’s very strong,” Germany coach Silvia Neid said through a translator. “For both teams, it’s important to digest these defeats and to have the goal to have a great match.”
Germany is 18-0-2 against the Lionesses, with both draws in 2007. That includes a scoreless game in the preliminary round of the 2007 World Cup in China, which the Germans went on to win.
Here are a number of things to watch out for in a game between Europe’s two remaining teams:
NEID’S FINALE: The 51-year-old German coach and former national team player will be on the sideline for her 17th and final Women’s World Cup game. Neid has said she intends to retire after the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“I will definitely think about the fact this will not happen again,” Neid said. “That’s why I will very much enjoy this experience.”
Neid was a member of the German team that defeated England 3-0 in the 1995 World Cup quarterfinals.
German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, who debuted in 1996, will make her 145th international appearance. The 2013 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, the only goalkeeper male or female to win a FIFA Player of the Year award, plans to retire after this tournament.
INSPIRING LOSS: England captain Steph Houghton called losing 3-0 to Germany in their most recent meeting was motivating.
“I think we’ve come a very long way since,” Houghton said, referring to the game played Nov. 23 in front of 45,000 fans at Wembley. “We learned a lot of lessons that day in terms of playing under pressure.”
NO OFFENSE, COLIN: Sampson rallied to Neid’s support regarding criticism the German coach is receiving back home following the semifinal loss.
“For anyone to say anything but Silvia Ned is one of the greatest coaches who ever graced the game, is wrong,” Sampson said.
Former England player Colin Bell, now a women’s coach in Germany, questioned why Neid had “no Plan B” after falling behind 1-0 to the U.S.
Sampson called that “very, very harsh,” before noting he respects Bell.
LINEUP CHANGES: Neid wouldn’t go into much detail regarding her lineup but noted that midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan and forward Lena Lotzen likely will not play due to injuries that have nagged them through the tournament. Forward Alexandra Popp’s status is uncertain after she and U.S. midfielder Morgan Brian knocked heads in the first half on Tuesday.
WINLESS STREAK: Sampson is relishing the opportunity for England to defeat Germany in a one-sided series that dates to Germany’s 2-0 win in Italy on Aug. 22, 1984.
“We’ve never beaten these Germans. You know they’re a right pain in our backside,” Sampson said, with a laugh. “So this is a unique opportunity for us to put to bed that myth.”
England is making its fourth tournament appearance and guaranteed its best finish after winding up seventh at Germany in 2011.