Phil Neville praises England Lionesses after World Cup exit

England suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat after having a goal ruled out by VAR and missing a late penalty.
England suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat after having a goal ruled out by VAR and missing a late penalty.

Boss Phil Neville insisted his players could hold their heads high after England were cruelly denied a place in the Women’s World Cup final last night by the USA in Lyon.

Steph Houghton had an 84th-minute penalty saved before Millie Bright was red-carded moments later as the Lionesses’ dreams of becoming the first senior England team – male or female – to contest a World Cup final since 1966 were dashed.

Neville insisted there should be no tears from his England players after their semi-final defeat.

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“My players give me everything,” said the England boss. “We said before the game we wanted to leave our hearts and souls on that pitch and they did, they gave everything.

“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 went down to 10-men and we’ve just probably run out of steam but I asked them to play football the way that I wanted them to play.

“We’ve come to this tournament, we’ve done our very best. We’ve not left anything in that dressing room and I’ve told them that there should be no tears tonight.

“We should be proud, we’ve touched the hearts of the nation back home and they’ve left their hearts on that football field so I’m happy.”

Christen Press deservedly headed USA in front after 10 minutes, but Ellen White’s sixth goal of the campaign pulled England level.

Alex Morgan then matched White in the race for the Golden Boot with the goal that restored the USA advantage in the 31st minute, before the England forward had a second-half effort disallowed on a marginal offside call after VAR was consulted.

England were then the beneficiaries of a second VAR intervention, when White was awarded a penalty after Becky Sauerbrunn made contact with her trailing leg in the box.

However, captain Houghton – on spot-kick duty after Nikita Parris missed England’s last two – produced a poor effort from 12 yards, with Alyssa Naeher comfortably making the save low to her right.

On whether emotions got the better of the England players, Neville added: “The disallowed goal was offside.

“We’ve had VAR decisions that have gone our way, we got on with it we came back, we obviously got the penalty.

“We score them, we miss them – that’s football. Then Millie (Bright) who shouldn’t have got booked in the first half, 100 per cent, I thought the referee wasn’t in control of the game to be honest with you, but she sent Millie off then we had to go to three at the back and it became stretched.

“I can’t ask anything more –we’ve had the time of our lives and they’ve really played their hearts out.”