England were full of belief that they could go all of the way in this #FIFAWWC2019 campaign and with five wins in a row and only one conceded, plus a striker in scorching hot form, their confidence was not misplaced. However, they came u against the world’s best side in Lyon and after conceding an early goal and they were always chasing the game.
To not be at their best but to push the current world champions all of the way in a pulsating, at times chaotic, and breathless tie, and to miss out on perhaps forcing the game into extra time by the finest of margins (the VAR offside call on Ellen White’s second) and a saved penalty, shows just how close they are to reaching their goal – a global final. The effort, energy and heart on display were never in question from the first whistle to the last, so understandably there was acute disappointment right throughout the squad.
It’s a horrible thing for players to have to walk through the mixed zone, straight after leaving the pitch, to field questions from reporters and give their reactions, after such a heart-breaking experience. That so many did, is testament to the character in the squad.
Here’s what some of them had to say (delayed due to embargoes for papers)…
On her feelings after the game:
I’m devastated. We wanted to leave everything out on the pitch and I think we did. I’m proud to be English, I’m proud to be part of this England team and we’ve got some very talented players that will go onto other tournaments and do amazingly well. We had such belief that we would make this final and we’re devastated not to have stepped over that mark. We left everything out there but just couldn’t step over that marker tonight. I’m devastated.
I hate VAR. We’ve experienced VAR in a positive way and tonight for my goal, VAR is there to make the right decision and I’m devastated but VAR is there to make the right decision and that’s what happened. I was offside. And VAR gave us a penalty, so it’s there to make the right decisions and we’ve have had ups and downs in this game but that’s what it’s there for.
On how confident she was, when through on goal, that it was a pen:
Yeah 100% I knew it was a pen. I was running up to the ref saying that’s a penalty, telling her to got to VAR, chasing her around the pitch. So, I was 100% about to kick it in the goal and the girl swiped my leg, so I knew it was a penalty.
On that chance and it being hard to take, given she was just 3 yards out:
Yeah. My eyes were like dollar signs, I was some excited that it was coming to me but we got the penalty and there’s no blame in this team. It’s courageous to stand up and take a penalty and we had other chances to score. So at the moment I’ve just got overriding pride.
On whether she was tested to take the penalty:
I wasn’t going to take the penalty. The staff make that decision, I don’t. Steph was on penalties and she stepped up and fair play to her. For me, it’s courageous to take a penalty and the keeper made a decent save. We don’t blame anyone, we’re a team.
On the gamesmanship of USA in closing 20 mins or so:
I don’t want to say too much because I could say a lot. Some of it may be unsporting but that’s how they win a game, that’s game management.
On still having a medal to win and the golden boot to play for:
Yeah, I’d quite like to take that off them [laughs] but we’ll take a couple of days, we will regroup, we will probably watch the game tomorrow but we’ve got a game on Saturday that we need to get up for and we want to go away with something from this tournament and any way I can contribute on or off the pitch then that will be my priority but I’m not really focusing on that.
On her feelings after the game:
We’re gutted not to make the final. We came out of the second half really fighting and it’s probably the VAR incidents that maybe stopped our flow a little bit. I thought we were getting on top in the game but yeh just gutted that we haven’t made that final. We gave it our absolute all and we just promised that we’d leave everything out on that pitch and hopefully that’s what you guys have seen from us.
On whether anything surprised her:
No we knew it was going to be a difficult game, they’re not number one in the world for nothing but I think we can take great pride in the fact that we competed. Obviously this team now has been to three semi finals consecutively in major tournaments and I don’t think many teams can say they’ve done that so I think once the emotion’s gone out of it, it hurts at the moment, a lot, hopefully we can leave this tournament and feel like we’ve done a good job.
On the cut below her eye:
I don’t know what happened to be honest. It was a physical game. I give it out as much as I take it, so it’s no hard feelings, I shook her hand at the end.
On whether this might be her last World Cup:
It’s a good question to be fair. I feel OK at the minute to be honest but would it be realistic to say another four years? I’d be 36 so yeh, it could be my last but I’ve said before I don’t really like to think too far ahead and my aim was just to get through this one and then decide after that what the plan is. I feel good at the minute and I still feel I can compete at this level.
On what was perhaps the difference tonight:
It was a very physical game but I felt like we competed well. It’s hard to say without watching it back straight away. There were a few decision where I thought [sighs] but obviously VAR will have got them correct, I really thought we had equalised at one point but it’s hard to pinpoint one thing straight after the game. We’ll go back and analyse it. People have asked about what we’re going to do now but we’re athletes, that’s what we do and we’re going to compete hard for that bronze medal on Saturday.
On how it feels and compared to last time:
Tough. Probably not as tough as last time, given the circumstances but it’s still just as tough, just as bitter, a horrible pill to swallow. Because we will look at it and probably go, we were the better team today. To have the penalty, to potentially take us to extra time…it’s a tough one.
On going again for the third place game:
Of course, of course. It’s part of the world cup. We’re going to want to come away with a medal. It’s part and parcel of it, we’ve got to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and refocus now. We’ll probably put this game to bed tonight and tomorrow and then regroup and go again for the third and fourth play-off and take a medal home.
On millions of people having watched back at home:
We came here and wanted to inspire a generation again, we wanted to snowball the effect of women’s football and want the kids to grow up to and aspire to be like us lot as Lionesses and I think we did that. The performance was good, the result wasn’t.
On losing to perhaps the best team in the tournament:
Yeah I think they’ll probably go on and win it. Credit to the USA, they do it time and time again. That’s why they’re winners, champions of the world. They find a way to win, that’s something we’ve got to start to do now if we want to start to turn he screw and be champions of the world, we’ve got to take a leaf out of their book and find a way to win. It’s tough but I think we will get there. This group of players have been unbelievable. We’ve come into this tournament, expected to do well and that’s tough to do.
And some from the USA’s Becky Sauerbrunn…
On how grateful she is to Alyssa Naeher:
She made a great save in the first half and then the PK save. I’m glad that she had her moment but she has been huge for us for so long and so now for the world to know how good she is, we already knew she was that good.
On the penalty call:
I think there was contact. I also thought she was going to score if I hadn’t made contact, so it was a legit play for the ball. I haven’t seen the foul but obviously VAR said it as a PK and so it was a credit to my team that we were, right if it goes to a PK spot and they put it in then we have 10 mins left to score another goal. It wasn’t really an ‘Oh no’ moment, it was kind of like, alright, this is soccer, let’s deal with it and move on.
On killing off games:
Yes. 2-1 games are notoriously hard to keep and It think that the forwards have done a great job of keeping the ball up in their half and I think Crystal came up with some big blocks and big runs late in the game to kill off more time so I think our savviness is pretty good.
On England making it difficult:
Very. England was great. Very busy, Nikita and Ellen gave us fits all night, they’re very smart with their runs and very difficult to defend and so I thought their squad was great and it could have gone either way for sure.
On final whistle when they ran over to Alyssa, she was there first, what did she say:
I think I said, ‘I love you.’ I always run back to her after games anyway but to be there first to celebrate that moment with her…but that was huge, we will talk about that for years.