Wednesday, 3 July 2019

England's players left "their hearts and souls on the pitch" in their Women's World Cup semi-final defeat by the USA - Phil Neville

The Lionesses lost 2-1 in Lyon, with Ellen White having a goal ruled out by the VAR for offside and captain Steph Houghton having a late penalty saved.

"I've told them no tears tonight," said Neville. "I'm proud. They have touched the hearts of the nation.

"I couldn't ask for more. We had the time of our lives."

England must now shrug off the heartbreak of a third consecutive semi-final defeat in a major tournament to face either Sweden or the Netherlands in Saturday's third-place play-off.

"We'll have to allow 24 to 48 hours for this to sink in and for them to get over this disappointment," added Neville, who said beforehand anything other than reaching the final would be a "failure".

"Nothing I can say will make them feel better. Elite sport and being on top of the world means that on Saturday in Nice we have to produce a performance.

"It will tell me a lot about my players. I've moved on from this already and now I'm looking forward to Saturday's game."

The USA, who are the world's top-ranked team and defending champions, led within 10 minutes from Christen Press' header. Ellen White equalised for England with her sixth goal of the tournament, a tally matched by Alex Morgan when she put the USA back in front.

The real drama came after the break as White had a goal disallowed and was awarded a penalty after she was tripped by Becky Sauerbrunn, with both decisions made by the VAR.

Houghton's spot-kick was saved by Alyssa Naeher, and Millie Bright was sent off late on for a second booking as the game drifted away from England.

"It's about winning," said Neville. "I can't say to my players: 'Unlucky.' That's white noise to them, because they wanted to win. That tells me that we're closer than we've ever been. We came here to win and we didn't do that.

"Football can be cruel. We have had a fantastic ride. When we got the penalty I turned to my bench and said 'we are going to win it' but it wasn't to be.

"We knew it was going to be an open game and I felt they were starting to run out of steam in the second half.

"We only had a 10-minute period in the first half where we played with the belief that we talked about. We stood off them too much. We will learn massively from this."

Neville accepted the offside decision against White was correct but said Bright should not have been shown her first yellow card and he thought "the referee wasn't really in control of the game".

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