Tears but pride for Lionesses
There were tears and not cheers as the England ladies’ team were knocked out of the Women’s World Cup in France on Tuesday night.
But despite the disappointment, there was also an overwhelming sense of pride in and around the Lionesses’ camp for what they had achieved.
England exited the competition with a 2-1 semi-final defeat to the holders, and competition favourites, the USA, in Lyon.
There is still the third-placed play-off match to look forward to on Saturday against either Sweden or the Netherlands, but that will be scant consolation for a team and manager who had their eye on the main prize.
Earlier, Phil Neville had said not progressing further than the semi’s would be seen as a “failure”.
But after a battling performance against the USA – they had a goal ruled out for offside by VAR and also saw captain Steph Houghton miss a late penalty – Neville admitted he was immensely proud of his players.
As Lucy Bronze and co consoled themselves on the pitch – Bronze was seen lying face down on the pitch in tears at the final whistle – Neville said: “I’m proud. They have touched the hearts of the nation. I couldn’t ask for more.”
The Americans took the lead within 10 minutes with a header from Christen Press. England equalised with a cool finish from Ellen White after 19 minutes, but Alex Morgan put the USA back in front and they led 2-1 at half-time.
The real drama came after the break when White, who had already scored six goals in the competition, had a potential equaliser narrowly ruled out by VAR for offside.
England were then awarded a penalty after a lengthy VAR decision, when White was fouled, but Houghton’s spot-kick was saved by keeper Alyssa Naeher.
Afterwards, a “gutted” Houghton said she felt she had “let the team down” with her miss, but Neville said there would be no recriminations.
The England women’s team have captured the imagination of the nation, with many young girls taking up the game, and Tuesday’s match was the most-watched TV programme of 2019.