England lose 2-1 to the USA in the first Women’s World Cup semi-final as skipper Steph Houghton misses a late penalty. On the day, the USA were just too strong for Phil Neville’s Lionesses and it’s heartache at the semi-final stage once more.
It didn’t take very long for England to fall behind in the game as ten minutes in, Christen Press broke the deadlock. Kelley O’hara whipped in a teasing cross from the right wing, Press rose highest in the area and slammed her header past the Carly Telford in the England goal.
Perhaps unexpectedly, England got back into the game pretty quickly. The reaction to the goal was good as Neville’s side began to pass the ball around a little, looking for a way through the US defence. It took just nine minutes for them to get back on terms and once more, it came from Ellen White.
Keira Walsh picked out Beth Mead on the left wing with a delicious aerial ball, Mead took a touch to set herself and whipped a teasing cross into the area where White was waiting to turn it home.
However, after the England goal, Jill Ellis’ side began to move up through the gears. England were finding it hard to get the ball the US, losing every second ball and finding themselves outnumbered in the midfield. Eventually, the pressure paid off when Lindsey Horan delivered an in-swinging cross which found the head of Alex Morgan – she simply helped it on its way and into the back of the net. With that goal, Morgan pulled herself level with Ellen White in the golden boot race, having been a goal behind for less than 12 minutes.
The second half was a very frustrating 45 minutes for England as they struggled to gain any sort of hold in the match. Those passing errors that we’ve seen so much throughout the tournament reared their head once more as Neville’s side struggled to hold onto the ball.
On 67 minutes, England thought they were level once more when Jill Scott slipped White through on goal again. In the typical predatory like fashion she had demonstrated all tournament long, White dispatched her chance with ease. However, the celebrations were all in vain as VAR confirmed the striker was offside by quite literally half a boot length.
Having seen their previous chance to get back on terms go up in smoke, England were given another glorious opportunity 15 minutes later. Once again, Ellen White was the fox in the box as she prepared to slam home a great cross from Demi Stokes. Just as she went to shoot, her heels were clipped by the defender as she rushed to make a tackle. Originally, the referee waved the decision away but after a lengthy VAR delay, referee Stephanie Frappart pointed to the spot.
Having missed her last two penalties in the tournament, Nikita Parris was relieved of her penalty duties. Captain Steph Houghton stepped up, confident as ever, and hammered her penalty toward the bottom left corner. Watching from behind the sofa, England fans across the country peaked out from between their fingers to see goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher lying on the floor with the ball safely in her grasp – opportunity blown.
The drama wasn’t over there either as a few minutes later, Millie Bright capped off another poor display with a red card. Having already been booked earlier in the game, she dived into a tackle with Carli Lloyd, her foot rolled over the ball and she hit the US veteran studs first on the shin. It was a no brainer for the referee – Bright had to go.
Ultimately, it was all too much for England as that World Cup final proves elusive once more. There were poor performances right throughout the team tonight, even from those who had been heroes in the earlier games, England just weren’t up to standard today. With the third place playoff still to play, the Lionesses aren’t done in France just yet.
Whatever happens in that match, Phil Neville and his squad can go home with their heads held high. They’ve done the nation proud, not just with their performances on the field, but with their fantastic and refreshing attitude off it. On behalf of a grateful nation, I say Thank you for representing our flag with such grace and decorum.