England Women's World Cup reflections: Positives, painful lessons and what comes next
Phil Neville's England in third-place play-off on Saturday
Last Updated: 03/07/19 2:52pm
England Women have suffered their third consecutive semi-final defeat in major tournaments - so how will they reflect on their World Cup campaign, what does it mean for the team's future and how have their performances impacted young players back at home?
England had arrived in France aiming to win the tournament but suffered a 2-1 defeat to favourites USA on Tuesday night.
Here, Sky Sports News reporter Jess Creighton, who has been following the team during the competition, assesses the context of that result and what comes next…
Was it valiant defeat or a failure?
It was all supposed to be so different this time but once again England's women's team have fallen at the penultimate hurdle for a third straight major tournament semi-final.
This was really the reason why Phil Neville was brought in - there was no questioning the players' ability, but it was their mentality that he was brought in to change because of his pedigree as a player, as a winner. This is why he was here as head coach.
Throughout this tournament, he has said that anything less than winning this competition would be a failure. So yes, I think he will have a few regrets.
If you look at the match itself, he was forced into changing the goalkeeper, Carly Telford started over Karen Bardsley who picked up a knock the day before, while Lucy Bronze - much touted as England's most threatening player throughout this World Cup - was marked out of the game for much of this match. Her link-up play with Nikita Parris was cancelled out by the US team.
So that right-hand side that had been such a potent threat for the England team throughout this World Cup was nullified by the USA and that allowed them to step in behind England's defence.
This will be a very painful defeat - yet another semi-final loss for this England women's team - but after the match Neville did say they would learn from this experience.
How will captain Steph Houghton react after her crucial penalty miss?
She said after the match she felt she'd let the country down, and she hadn't lived up to the high standards she set herself. You just hope, though, that this experience won't be too debilitating for her because she has been one of England's best players during this tournament.
She's made last-ditch tackles, she's made goal-line clearances and she has been one of their standout and key figures.
Neville has tried in most of his matches to build his side around Houghton - she's one of only three England players to start every single match. She's their leader on and off the pitch and if you speak to the players they say they believe in her, they look to her in times of distress and she had the courage to step up and take that penalty when she was approached by Neville the day before to take over penalty duties from Parris.
I expect she'll have a day to reflect, perhaps a day to wallow, but she has to get herself up to lead the team in another match on Saturday.
What significance does that third-place play-off hold for the team?
It will be tough for these players. They came here thinking they were going to win this World Cup and that hasn't happened. They will be devastated. You could see at the final whistle they were mentally and physically exhausted but they still have a bronze medal to fight for and they won't want to leave this tournament empty-handed.
But you have to look at the positives as well, they might be out at the semi-final stage but they will be aware of the legacy they're building back at home and the record TV figures.
They're also bringing through the new generation of players, in the likes of Georgia Stanway.
Now, there's one last push for this England team and fingers crossed for them they can come home with a bronze medal.
"Phil Neville has exceeded expectations"
FA chief executive Martin Glenn praised the work of England Women boss Phil Neville in the aftermath of their World Cup semi-final defeat.
Speaking to Sky Sports News on Wednesday morning, Glenn applauded the way the former Manchester United and Everton midfielder had taken the team forward.
"Phil really impressed our technical team by having done his elite coaching badges at St George's Park, so he was on our radar as someone who had great talent," said Glenn.
"We also felt because of the strong connection he had with his sister [England netball head coach Tracey Neville] that there was an empathy for women's football. We felt this could be a game-changer; having an elite former international leading a women's team.
"He's really exceeded expectations. He's embraced all that St George's Park has to offer, he works well with Gareth (Southgate) and the men's team, so he's been a perfect combination of experience and personality.
"He wants to learn, takes ideas from other sports and I think we've seen the benefits of that."
"We are going to be the dominant force in women's football"
Glenn believes England are on the right track and believes they can become the best side in the world, with the FA eager to continue growing the game at both the grassroots and elite level.
"We had a real catalyst in that 2015 World Cup; we came in 12th in the world and finished third. After that we said, 'we can let this game grow naturally or we can be really purposeful about it'," he said.
"We set ourselves a target to double participation, double the size of the pool the manager has to pick from and double the size of spectators. We've made great progress, and by 2020 we'll have doubled from the base in 2015, but we've got to keep moving.
"When we get there, boy are we going to be the dominant, powerful force in women's football."
Follow all the action from England's third-place play-off on Saturday with our live blog on skysports.com and the Sky Sports App. Kick-off is 4pm.