VANCOUVER — Lauren Sesselmann collected a pass from a teammate early in the first half on Saturday, a play the Canadian defender has made countless times.
On this occasion, however, in front of more than 54,000 fans, the ball got caught up in her feet. She fell to the ground and tried desperately to recover, but it was too late.
Jodie Taylor was off to the races and made no mistake with her finish in the 11th minute to give England a lead it would never relinquish in beating Canada 2-1 to send the hosts crashing out of the Women’s World Cup at the quarter-final stage.
“It’s a soccer player’s nightmare,” Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt said of Sesselmann’s gaffe. “It’s unfortunate. That’s how soccer goes, but I’m still proud of her. She didn’t let that affect her performance.”
Sesselmann, who still had tears in her eyes 90 minutes after the match and declined to speak to the media, had not been on the pitch for a single goal against at the tournament prior Saturday.
Despite that record — Canada conceded just once through the first four games — the 31-year-old was the target of criticism for some nervy moments.
“She’s took a bit of flack this tournament,” said Canadian head coach John Herdman. “That player’s going in there with the amount of grief she’s taken across games. She’s shown real resilience to pull that shirt on and play tonight. I’m proud of Lauren. I make the decisions on selection.”
Coming off a serious knee injury in the build up to the World Cup, Sesselmann had to convince Herdman to keep her on against China in the opener after some erratic sequences.
“You hear it here and there,” Sesselmann said of the criticism earlier this week. “People are always going to have something to say. You can be the best player in the world and they still have something to say. I’m not even worrying about that.”
Sesselmann was almost victimized on a couple of occasions against Switzerland in the round of 16, but she and teenage defender Kadeisha Buchanan continued to anchor the backline and had a spotless record together at the World Cup until Saturday.
“I’m not going to hide from mistakes players make,” said Herdman. “(Sesselmann) did well tonight to recover from that and come out and show that resilience and still keep playing. You imagine what was going through her head? She’ll want that ground to swallow her up. She just came out fighting. She had a rocky five minutes after the mistake, but she came back fighting. All credit to her. All credit to that woman.”