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Neville Lauds The Lionesses

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LYON, July 3, 2019 (Xinhua) -- Players of England pose for photos prior to the semifinal between the United States and England at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup at Stade de Lyon in Lyon, France on July 2, 2019. (Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu/IANS) by Xiao Yijiu.
Players of England pose for photos prior to the semifinal between the United States and England at the 2019 FIFA Women\'s World Cup at Stade de Lyon in Lyon, France on July 2, 2019. (Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu/IANS)

Another near miss. But a moment to cherish for ever. A 2-1 defeat by holders United States means England have now suffered three successive semi-final exits in major tournaments. In 2015, reaching the last four was new and unexpected – England overachieved and left Canada with smiles and bronze medals.

LYON, July 3, 2019 (Xinhua) -- Players of England pose for photos prior to the semifinal between the United States and England at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup at Stade de Lyon in Lyon, France on July 2, 2019. (Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu/IANS) by Xiao Yijiu.
Players of England pose for photos prior to the semifinal between the United States and England at the 2019 FIFA Women\’s World Cup at Stade de Lyon in Lyon, France on July 2, 2019. (Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu/IANS)

This year’s game was historic. Even the Glastonbury stopped its blast to stream the games. Record TV audiences, unprecedented media coverage and inspirational stories. The women’s football in England is reaching new heights.

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, BBC reported.

“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.”

“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”.

LYON, July 3, 2019 (Xinhua) -- Alex Morgan (L) of the United States and Lucy Bronze (C) of England head for the ball during the semifinal between the United States and England at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup at Stade de Lyon in Lyon, France on July 2, 2019. (Xinhua/Chen Yichen/IANS) by Chen Yichen.
Alex Morgan (L) of the United States and Lucy Bronze (C) of England head for the ball during the semifinal between the United States and England at the 2019 FIFA Women\’s World Cup at Stade de Lyon in Lyon, France on July 2, 2019. (Xinhua/Chen Yichen/IANS)

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.

“Football can be cruel. We have had a fantastic ride,” said Neville. “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 says he is already looking to the future as England look to win a major tournament for the first time. His contract runs until the end of Euro 2021, which is being held in England – with the final at Wembley. Prior to that, the former Manchester United player will also take charge of the Great Britain team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics – they qualified as a result of England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals.