Lionesses will have regrets but their legacy can be ‘incredible’

“Let none of you feel defeated.” That was the message from King Charles III to England’s Lionesses after their Fifa Women’s World Cup dreams were shattered by Spain in yesterday’s final in Sydney.

A 29th-minute goal from captain Olga Carmona was enough to see La Roja “deservedly” triumph in front of a sell-out crowd of 75,784 at Stadium Australia, said Emma Sanders on BBC Sport. “Outplayed” by a Spanish side which was “full of flair and creativity”, England’s “wait to win a first Women’s World Cup title goes on”. After giving it their “everything”, the result was “really hard to take”, said captain Millie Bright. “We’re absolutely heartbroken”, but unfortunately “we just weren’t there”. 

As manager Sarina Wiegman and her players process the heartbreak of losing a World Cup final, England fans praised the squad for their performance during the tournament held in Australia and New Zealand. Leading the plaudits, the King said in a message on social media that reaching the final was an “immense tribute” to their “skill, determination and team spirit”. 

Wiegman, who also lost the 2019 final as Netherlands boss, urged the squad to be “proud” of their achievements. “Of course it feels really bad now” and “we’re very disappointed”, she told the BBC. But to play “how we have as a team”, overcoming “so many challenges”, we can be “so proud” of ourselves. “Only it doesn’t feel like that at the moment.”

Regrets? They’ll have a few…

There is certainly “no shame” in losing to a “superior” Spain side, said Jonathan Liew in The Guardian, and there will be “no recriminations” or “burning effigies” for a group of players who “left every piece of themselves on the Sydney pitch”. Will England have regrets? “They’ll have a few”, for another four years at least, as “the circle remains incomplete”. Perhaps “something good” will come of this defeat: “new ideas and strategies, fresh blood, a more realistic view of where this young side are in the order of things”. 

While there will be regrets at “what could have been”, said Rob Harris on Sky News, the European champions made progress by “going further than ever at a World Cup”. The “hope” will be for “progress now”, not just in the English game – in a country “energised” to show more support for women’s football – but progress “more widely”.

Sarina Wiegman and her staff talk to the squad in the post-match huddle 

David Gray/AFP via Getty Images

They have ‘changed the game’

The message from the King was “well-judged”, said Oliver Brown in The Telegraph, as it restored a “dose of perspective” to the “bleak idea” that a moment 57 years in the making had “slipped from the Lionesses’ grasp”. Yes, falling short in a World Cup final is “gut-wrenching”, but a “soothing consolation” was the thought that “for this team, one result needed not spell the end”. ‌‌A World Cup final can be a “coldly binary affair”, with the winners “idolised” and the losers “relegated to footnotes”. In Australia, England “expanded the parameters” of what women’s sport can do, of how “powerfully it can lift the public mood”. They have “earned their seal of royal approval”. Even in the depths of a “short-lived sorrow”, they have “palpably changed the game”.

It’s obviously “devastating” to lose a final, said former Lionesses striker Ellen White on BBC Sport, but the nation back home were “gripped” and what the team have done for little girls – “creating role models for them” – is “just incredible”. The players “shouldn’t be disheartened”, it’s a “major achievement” to reach a World Cup final so “don’t underestimate how incredibly talented you are”, White added. “You will go again, you will get to major finals and you will win a World Cup soon. The whole nation was transfixed by this tournament so just know you are inspiring so many people.”



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