Phil Neville believes his England side will come back stronger for their agonising defeat by USA in the semi-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Captain Steph Houghton missed what would have been an equalising penalty late on, but Christen Press and Alex Morgan headers either side of another Ellen White strike booked the holders a place in a third successive final.
White had a goal disallowed for offside in the second half and Millie Bright was sent off in the dying embers to compound England’s misery.
- FIFA Women's World Cup
- Tuesday 2 July
- in Stade de Lyon, France
“Football can be cruel. We have had a fantastic ride. When we got the penalty I turned to my bench and said 'we were 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 but we stood off them too much.
“We weren't going to come to a semi-final and back off, and we will learn massively from this.
“We just ran out of steam. I asked them to play football the way we wanted. We've done our very best. I've told them no tears tonight. I couldn't ask for more. We had the time of our lives.”
England won all three group matches, against Scotland, Argentina and Japan, before powering past Cameroon and Norway in the knockout stages to seal a second successive World Cup semi-final appearance.
Dead-ball specialist Houghton was handed the responsibility of taking England’s penalties for the last-four clash after Nikita Parris had missed two of her three tournament spot kicks.
The Lionesses, who won bronze in 2015, will now take on either Sweden or the Netherlands in the third-place play-off on Saturday.
Neville added: “Steph Houghton has had an incredible year. She's an amazing person on and off the pitch.
“She'll be upset. She's been phenomenal. No blame should be attached to her.
“She was outstanding in the game and she read everything. She had the courage to take the penalty and then keep playing football after. She is an amazing person and a world-class footballer.”
He continued: “That's football. That's sport. You've got to pick yourselves up. We've got a big game on Saturday. We'll go again.”