2019 Women’s World Cup: England ‘must be honest to take next step’ after USA defeat

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England must be “honest with themselves” if they are to “take the next step” after a third consecutive major tournament semi-final defeat, says ex-defender Alex Scott.

Captain Steph Houghton missed a late penalty as England suffered a 2-1 World Cup defeat by holders the USA.

The Lionesses were beaten at the last World Cup by Japan and the 2017 Euros by eventual winners the Netherlands.

Midfielder Jordan Nobbs said England “need to be hard on ourselves”.

The Arsenal player missed the tournament through a knee injury and told BBC One: “It is heartbreaking but USA always have something which gets them to a final.

“We have not quite found that yet. We need to be hard on ourselves because we will never get to a final if we don’t look into that.”

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Former England and Arsenal player Scott added: “England were beaten by the better team. When you look at the USA side, they were fitter, ruthless and clinical when they needed to be – those are the lessons England will need to take.

“How do we get to the next level? They have to be honest with themselves, they need to look and evaluate. They need to learn a harsh lesson and need to learn to be truthful with one another to get to the next step.

“Every player will look at themselves now and ask: ‘What do we need to do to be better and be the best in the world?’ That is the level [they need to be at].”

Former USA goalkeeper Hope Solo said: “We wanted to see the USA tested and we wanted to see England attacking in numbers. For the first time, USA did not drop back defensively and they tried to play. It was fun football to watch and I am proud of both sides.

“Phil Neville should stay in his role, the Olympics are just around the corner. For England, the success is in final details. They have come so far in terms of their fitness and how they want to play and now it is just the finite details.

“You can see in the second half England were putting together passes and were getting opportunities at goal, but it is now about doing it for 90 minutes, it is about the consistency.”

  • Beers, cheers and dashed hopes for England fans

Should White have stepped up for the penalty?

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England had fallen behind to Christen Press’ early header and levelled through Ellen White’s brilliant, first-time strike. But Alex Morgan’s free header just after the half-hour mark proved to be the winner.

White and Morgan are tied at six goals each in the race for the Golden Boot, but should the England forward have stepped up for the crucial missed penalty?

Nikita Parris had failed to convert from the spot with her last two efforts in the tournament so the opportunity was given to Houghton, but the Manchester City player saw her strike saved by USA goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.

“Maybe we needed someone telling Ellen, ‘You can score goals, go and take it’,” said Scott. “But throughout previous World Cups and tournaments, Ellen has never wanted to step up and take a penalty – maybe it is the pressure and how you handle it? It is something she can work on.”

Nobbs added: “Parris has missed two so I am sure they will have spoken about it in training. It is brave from Steph and she will be disappointed but Ellen has scored so many goals. You don’t know what goes on on the training field.

“We missed two penalties, then changed it so they have obviously done work on that for Steph. But it is about pressure and who can get that goal.”

Earlier in the second half, White looked to have equalised with a lovely finish, but the video assistant referee (VAR) adjudged she was offside by the narrowest of margins.

‘Eventually your luck runs out’

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England had won all five games up until the semi-final loss and were on a run of 381 minutes without conceding a goal before Press struck.

Phil Neville’s side saw defender Millie Bright sent off late on for two yellow cards, the second of which was a foul on Morgan. But it was England’s lack of composure on the ball that proved to be their undoing.

Scott said: “Sloppy is the right word for England throughout the tournament – in the second halves, when the team has got tired. If Phil has come in with the philosophy of wanting to be a footballing team and wants to play out from the back, then we need to be better on the ball.

“At times we were the architects of our own downfall, handing the ball to the USA.”

Nobbs added: “Eventually your luck runs out and against a top team like the USA, they will score goals against you and that happened to us today.”

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