England suffer Women’s World Cup final heartache against Spain
There was disappointment that the heroics of Mary Earps and Co were not enough to bring the World Cup home.
But the mood among the millions who followed the Sydney showdown back home was one of adulation for Sarina Wiegman’s women.
They said the four-week adventure Down Under left a summer of happy memories and a team full of idols for young fans to look up to.
In the fan zones, where families had crammed in to watch the match on big screens, there were some tears at the final whistle.
But most fans, dressed in replica kits, departed full of respect for their heroes.
At Wembley’s Boxpark, a drinks, food and entertainment hall in north-west London, the crowd included seven women who played in England’s first international match against Scotland in 1972.
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Trailblazer Jeannie Allott said “it will come home eventually”, before joking: “I just hope it comes home before I go up there. Let’s hope so. I was one of them that started this and I’m so proud of the girls. The whole of England are.”
The original Lionesses were joined at Wembley by actor Idris Elba and former Three Lions and Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand as well as hundreds of England fans.
At Croydon’s Boxpark, around 1,000 supporters rode the emotional rollercoaster.
They gasped with disbelief as Lauren Hemp’s shot rattled the Spanish crossbar 15 minutes into the game.
And there was stunned silence when Olga Carmona beat Earps with what turned out to be the winning goal at Stadium Australia, which earlier applauded tennis legend and women’s sports campaigner Billie Jean King before kick-off.
The noise levels were up again as England pushed for an equaliser and the roof almost came off when Earps pulled off her brilliant penalty save from Jennifer Hermoso.
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Even when all was lost – and England’s 57-year wait for a footballing World Cup continued – the mostly female crowd could only talk of the positives. Jolie Hill, 21, who was watching with a group of university friends, said: “It was a tough result for us but they made it so much fun.
“We’re so proud of these girls to get so far. My nieces get to grow up to have these women as idols which we never got to have. We idolised David Beckham and Steven Gerrard and other men’s players like that. But my nieces get to grow up with Millie Bright and Ella Toone as idols. These players have formed a legacy for future generations.
“Younger girls can grow up thinking women can do anything they want to.”
Nicola Byrne, 48, of south London, said: “We can walk off with heads held high. We had a great time.” Friend Dani Poll, 23, added: “Hat’s off to Spain, but we idolise England’s women no matter what.”
Dani’s sister Sophie, 27, reckoned: “There is more to come from this team so watch out. They have done absolutely brilliantly.”
Dani Beazley, 51, of Battersea, south-west London, said: “They got so far, which has never happened before. Hopefully a lot more people will get into women’s football and a lot more will come of it.” Her niece Georgia added: “Seeing people get so upset at the end is horrible – but it was buzzing in here. It brought people together.”
The Lionesses stars’ grans were out in force to support their loved ones. Gloria Stapylton, grandmother of Lucy Bronze, donned a St George bucket hat as she watched nervously at Ponteland Leisure Centre in Northumberland, while Anne Toon, grandma of Ella, was all smiles in her “Buzzing mi head off” headwear. Plaudits also rolled in from North Walsham, home town of England striker Hemp.
Samantha Harrison, 52, who watched at the local football club, said: “The team gel so well, they will come again. We often see Lauren at Christmas. They will be devastated, but look at what it’s done – not just for girls’ football but women’s sport. It’s fantastic.”
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