Phil Neville’s England lost to the tournament favourites, The USA, in a dramatic game in Lyon last night
England were unlucky when, in a dramatic second half, they had a goal disallowed and a penalty saved. Both decisions were awarded through the use of the Virtual Assistant Referee (VAR) and were ultimately correct.
The USA were fastest out of the blocks, when Christen Press, a surprise starter for the USA, headed them ahead within the first ten minutes after some terrible defending by England’s back four. England regrouped and just under ten minutes later were back in the game.
Keira Walsh, often a divisive figure amongst spectators, whipped a spectacular cross-field ball to Beth Mead, which cut out most of the USA team. Mead crossed dangerously, and Ellen White turned the ball in for her sixth goal of the tournament – a feat soon matched by Alex Morgan of the USA to put them back ahead before half time.
For the first time in this tournament, Phil Neville changed his formation to counteract the USA’s attacking play. It didn’t work, and he reverted to his favoured 4-2-3-1 and introduced fan favourite Fran Kirby, dubbed the ‘Mini Messi’, by fans.
The second half started slowly before coming to life in the 67th minute, when White scored again. However, after a VAR review the goal was ruled out for offside. The Lionesses never let their heads drop and in the 84th minute, they were awarded a penalty through VAR, after Becky Sauerbrunn took down White in the area.
Captain Steph Houghton stepped forward but saw her spot-kick saved by USA No.1 Alyssa Naeher, to the heartbreak of thousands of England fans in the Stade de Lyon. To add to their frustration, Millie Bright was sent off two minutes later for a second yellow card, which killed off any chance of a last-minute miracle.
It was heartbreak for the Lionesses – with only a third-place playoff to look forward to on Saturday against the loser of the Netherlands and Sweden, who play this evening. Phil Neville said after the game: “I don’t wallow. I won’t go back to my room tonight and feel sorry for myself… The aim is for us to become the best, like America. We’ve still got a bit to go but I won’t stop until we get there.”
The USA look unbeatable and have now won their last 11 matches at the Women’s World Cup; breaking the record for the best winning streak in the tournament’s history. They will meet the winner of the Netherland’s and Sweden on Saturday evening.
The third-placed play-off final will be live on the BBC at 4pm on Saturday.
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