The Lionesses who captivated a nation were reunited with their families in Heathrow’s Terminal 2 after a long flight from Canada that brought tired eyes but could not erase the pride on their faces.
Some players felt the flashbulbs might have reflected better off a gold or silver medal, but there was no escaping the achievement of a third-place finish for a team ranked sixth in the world.
FATV caught up with England's Lionesses in Heathrow
Defender Laura Bassett, who went from semi-final heartbreak to providing the driving force for the victory over Germany, says the World Cup experience is yet to sink in.
“Everybody is looking forward to going back home and just reflecting on what we have done – speaking about it with friends and family and enjoying some home comforts,” she said.
“We have said a quick goodbye and it is going to be strange. Maybe when we are old grannies we will meet up and talk about it in a coffee shop!
“We have these memories we share with each other. The bond we have really is special.”
Lucy Bronze, shortlisted for player of the tournament, tried to find a word that best summed up the campaign.
“Spectacular,” said the Manchester City right-back. “It’s something we dreamed about and thought we could do, but to come out with a medal is just a whole different story.
“I went out there to do as best I could but I didn’t think I’d ever get on any best-player lists. I just wanted to get a few minutes.
“It’s probably because I scored a couple of goals – it’s a huge compliment but I think it is a reflection on how well we played as a team.”
Captain Steph Houghton turned her thoughts to a semblance of normality after nearly two months in camp with the Lionesses.
“For the last 50-odd days we have stuck to a schedule, getting up for breakfast and then training and so on so it will be nice to get a bit more freedom,” she said.
“We will all miss each other – maybe not for the first few days but certainly after! We enjoyed every single minute.”
For Houghton, Bronze and Jill Scott, plus Karen Bardsley and Toni Duggan, thoughts have already turned to playing for Manchester City, at home against Sunderland on Sunday.
Scott said: “We only have a few days off and then we’re back into club football.
“We all have FA WSL fixtures this weekend and then the European Championship qualifiers with England. We’re tired at the minute but we’ll have a rest and then get ready to go again.”
One thing is for sure – the Lionesses hope this is only the start of something special for women’s and girls’ football in this country.
Bassett said: “The fact that people are going out and getting our names on the back of their shirts and wanting to score goals like Lucy Bronze is just brilliant.”
Bronze has another word: “It’s all rather surreal.
“I’ve never really seen myself as a superstar or anyone’s hero but it is great to know that these kids are looking up to us and that we are making a difference.
“We wanted to reach the final but also we wanted to inspire girls to play and the whole country and we have done that.
"If in 10 years’ time I can say that I made a difference and that some little girl has become the best player in the world then that’s fine by me.
She added: “I’m just going to work even harder for the next tournament. The bronze medal is just the beginning. Every competition that we go into now we will want to win.”