Lionesses will only get better after World Cup heartbreak

England’s Lionesses returned home this week following their 2-1 defeat to eventual World Cup winners the USA.

Goals from Christen Press and Alex Morgan proved too much for England, despite Ellen White finding the net for her sixth goal of the tournament.

White also had a potential equaliser ruled out for offside by VAR, before captain Steph Houghton missed a penalty in the 83rd minute.

England went on to lose their third-place match to Sweden by the same scoreline, finishing the World Cup one place lower than the last tournament in Canada.

It is undoubtable that the Women’s World Cup 2019 was a massive success in terms of its effect on the women’s game.

Despite the debacle of FIFA’s ticketing projections, the BBC’s total audience of their television coverage totalled 28.1 million, more than doubling last World Cup’s viewing figures of 12.4 million.

In fact, England’s semi-final defeat brought in a live TV audience of 11.7 million, the highest ever for a Women’s World Cup game in this country.

More people are now aware of the women’s game and the improvement in quality has not gone unnoticed.

The Lionesses themselves performed well throughout, reaching the semis for the second time straight and cementing their status as a world elite in the Women’s game.

But was this tournament really a success for England? Phil Neville made it clear from the start that England’s aim was to win, with the players sharing the same sentiment.

“We came here to win the World Cup, and that’s still our aim,” defender Millie Bright had even remarked before their encounter with the US.

The Lionesses are currently the third-best team in the world according to FIFA rankings and entered the tournament as outside favourites.

They started slowly against Scotland but with each game gone by, they seemed to grow more in both confidence and ability.

That may be the reason why their loss to the USA was so disappointing. Never mind that the Americans are the best in the world, England were on such a roll that it almost seemed impossible that they would lose.

Although they did finish a place higher during the 2015 tournament in Canada nobody expected the Lionesses to perform as well as they did.

Skip forward to 2019 and England entered the World Cup with a genuine claim of winning the whole thing. That was the difference.

England has improved massively in four years and have progressed from outsider underdogs to dark horse contenders.

No matter they didn’t secure the bronze – they were after the gold. Neville may have received some grief for calling the third-place match ‘nonsense’ – but can you blame him considering there really is only one prize worth competing for?

England may not have finished higher than the last World Cup but taking into consideration their improvement in confidence, squad depth and quality, there is a strong case that this tournament was more successful than the last.

We must also remember that the women’s game is only going to get better and teams are going to rapidly improve in the years to come.

And one final point; the debate over whether Alex Morgan’s celebratory jibe by drinking a cup of tea should be taken as a compliment, not an insult.

Four years ago, no-one even considered the Lionesses as a World Cup contender. That celebration proved that they’re finally seen as a genuine threat, and they’re only going to get better.

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