Euro 2017: England reflect on heartbreaking semi-final loss
England were unwavering in the belief that they could become European champions, which is why they could not hide their devastation after a 3-0 semi-final defeat by hosts the Netherlands and boss Mark Sampson admitted every single squad member was in tears at full time.
The Lionesses were the favourites to win the tournament before their showdown with the hosts and, with four wins from four and 11 goals in the process, it was not hard to see why.
But in front of a capacity crowd in Enschede, a city tucked away near the German border, they were undone in ruthless fashion as the Dutch set up a final with Denmark.
The 3-0 scoreline may satisfy the hosts and England had their chances, with Jade Moore hitting the woodwork and Jodie Taylor missing from point-blank range.
But they were clinical in front of goal and ripped England’s dreams apart, condemning the Lionesses to a second consecutive semi-final exit at a major tournament following their defeat to Japan at the 2015 World Cup.
That year, they could console themselves with a third-place play-off and a chance to regain momentum but here they were left with another ‘what if’.
“We’re disappointed, there are 24 devastated women in that dressing room,” said Sampson.
“We’ve shed a lot of tears together, but we can also be very proud. They have given everything to try and win this tournament, they couldn’t have given anything more. It just wasn’t our night.
“We knew it was going to be difficult, playing the host nation in front of a capacity crowd, and we have to congratulate Holland. They are an excellent team and if we have more games like that, it can only be a good thing for women’s football.
“I have been blessed as a manager, I couldn’t have had a better group of players. This hurts, but I can’t praise my players enough.”
The Netherlands took the lead mid-way through the first half when Vivianne Miedama nodded a deep cross back across goal, but England spurned chances to level through Fran Kirby and Moore’s header.
And the hosts made them pay, as Danielle van de Donk capitalised on a Fran Williams error to double the lead before Millie Bright was deflected in Lieke Martens’ shot.
Sampson now has a tough job on his hands to pick England up, but he insists they will not make the same mistakes again as they look to the 2019 World Cup in France.
But there was a bitter taste in his mouths at full time, with two strong penalty appeals turned down in the second half.
“Over the course of the tournament, we have been one of the of best teams here. But, in tournament football, small things can make a big difference,” Sampson added.
“I made some mistakes, for sure. I’ll go away and reflect. I’ll look at it all and then do a better job next time.
“We didn’t get the decisions. But I’m incredibly proud of the players.”
VIDEO: England react to Euro 2017 semi-final exit
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