England bow out of World Cup with Olympic qualification confirmed
02 July 2019 / 21:54
Phil Neville praised his battling Lionesses after their 2-1 Women's World Cup semi-final defeat to the USA in Lyon.
England, who had already sealed Team GB’s qualification for next summer’s Tokyo Olympics after their quarter-final victory over Norway, had the chance to force extra time but skipper Steph Houghton saw a late penalty saved.
The USA went into half-time with a lead that they would not surrender, Ellen White levelling after Christen Press’s opener only for Alex Morgan to strike back for the States.
And White thought that she had equalised once again after the break, only for her strike to be ruled out for a marginal offside on video review.
“My players gave me everything,” said Neville.
“We said before the game that we wanted to leave our hearts and souls on the pitch.
“We’ve gone toe-to-toe with the best team in the world, they showed great experience at the end with taking the ball into the corner.
“We’ve come to this tournament, done our very best, not left anything in that dressing room and I’ve told them that there should be no tears tonight, we should be proud.
“They’ve left their hearts on that football field, so I’m happy.
“I can’t ask for anything more – we’ve had the time of our lives – and they really played their hearts out.”
The Lionesses were on the back foot early on; when Kelly O’Hara’s teasing cross to the back post was met perfectly by Press, Carly Telford was left grasping at thin air in the England goal.
But, far from being rattled by the set-back, England came forward, playing the only way they know how.
They were rewarded for their optimism on the 20-minute mark, the clinical White guiding home from Beth Mead’s low cross, becoming the first English player to score in five consecutive World Cup games.
But from one clinical forward to another, the USA’s chief threat Morgan had her say, nodding past the advancing Telford from Lindsey Horan’s cute ball into the heart of the box.
White thought she had equalised for a second time when she calmly slotted past Alyssa Naeher, only for the goal to be disallowed after a VAR check deemed her offside by finest of margins.
But the video assistant came to England’s favour as the match ticked towards 90 minutes, as White was adjudged to have been clipped when stretching for Nikita Parris’ pass.
Up stepped London 2012 star Houghton but the England captain watched as her spot-kick was saved low to Naeher’s right.
Their disappointment was compounded when Millie Bright picked up her second yellow for a rash tackle, and the USA were able to hold out for the final.
“Obviously I’m devastated not to get to the final, but all I feel is pride for my teammates,” said White.
“The USA had an amazing match, but we couldn’t quite match them. I’m disappointed with that one offside, but I’m just proud, and wish the USA the best of luck in the final. I’m just devastated.
“We gave everything. First half we were a little bit sloppy, but we got ourselves back into the game with that goal.
“I thought second half we tried to play, created some chances and it’s just bitterly disappointing not to reach that final.
“We had so much belief going into this game that we’d reach that final, but we couldn’t quite do it on the night.”