Neville hails Lionesses despite semi-final loss

Phil Neville felt his England players left their “hearts and souls” on the pitch after a 2-1 defeat to the United States in the Women’s World Cup semi-final.

Steph Houghton had an 84th-minute penalty saved, while Ellen White also saw a second-half goal ruled out for the narrowest of offside calls also given following a lengthy Video Assistant Referee review.

Christen Press deservedly headed USA in front after 10 minutes, but White’s sixth goal of the tournament pulled England level.

Alex Morgan’s goal on 31 minutes proved enough for the holders, but only after a spirited fightback from the Lionesses and all the late drama which left Neville’s players crestfallen, with Millie Bright also sent off for a second caution before the full-time whistle.

“My players gave me everything. We said before the game we wanted to leave our hearts and souls on that pitch and they did, they gave everything,” Neville told BBC Sport.

“We’ve gone toe to toe with the best team in the world, they showed great experience at the end with taking the ball into the corner.

“We went down to 10 and we’ve just probably run out of steam, but I asked them to play football the way that I wanted them to play.

“We’ve come to this tournament, we’ve done our very best. We’ve not left anything in that dressing room and I’ve told them that there should be no tears tonight.

“We should be proud, we’ve touched the hearts of the nation back home and they’ve left their hearts on that football field so I’m happy.

“I can’t ask anything more, we’ve had the time of our lives and they’ve really played their hearts out.”

On Houghton’s penalty miss, the captain’s spot-kick saved by Alyssa Naeher, Neville said: “She’s had an incredible year.

Steph Houghton saw her late penalty saved in Lyon
Steph Houghton saw her late penalty saved in Lyon (John Walton/PA)

“She’s an amazing person on and off the pitch and she’ll deal with it the way that she does. She’s been phenomenal and no blame should be attached to her.”

United States coach Jill Ellis, who was born in Portsmouth, felt her side had “stepped up”.

When asked about Naeher’s save she replied: “I just said ‘that was your shining moment’.

“I mean what a fricking stop, it was unbelievable, but just front to back I couldn’t be more proud of this group of players.”

On her message to the squad as they target another World Cup triumph, Ellis added: “First I said we’ve got four days in between (games) this time so this will help.

“I just said ‘stay humble, we’ve got one more’.”