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'Well done to Sweden but it was a nonsense game' - Neville hits out after England's World Cup third-place defeat

20:01 SAST 2019/07/06
Phil Neville England Japan Women's World Cup
Both the manager and midfielder Karen Carney admitted that motivation to win Saturday's clash was rather limited following defeat to the U.S.

England manager Phil Neville is proud of his charges as he saw the Women's World Cup end with defeat in a "nonsense game", and vowed the team would return better and stronger in the future. 

Having lost out to the United States 2-1 in the semi-final, the Lionesses went down by the same scoreline to Sweden in Saturday's third-place play-off. 

Early goals from Kosovare Asllani and Sofia Jakobsson left England with an uphill struggle, and despite hitting back through Francesca Kirby they were unable to turn the game around in Nice. 

Neville admitted that after the drama of the last-four clash it was hard to regain motivation, but praised his players for their reactions to adversity.

"I think maybe there was carry on from the semi-final - the emotion," he explained to the BBC after the final whistle.

"The two goals sparked us into life and I don't think I have seen us play better than we did after those first 20 minutes. We gave it our best shot, we fell short and we just have to make sure next time we are better.

"Well done to Sweden but it is a nonsense game. We are probably showing in those first 20 minutes the disappointment we felt from the USA game. We came here to win it, not finish fourth."

Despite finishing their World Cup campaign with back-to-back losses, Neville was delighted with what he saw in France and is already looking forward to 2023.

"The players came here and delivered everything I wanted - the style of play. This is sport. We have to come back in four years time and be better," he added.

"There are many champions that have had to suffer before coming back. We go home, we dissect and we breathe and then we get back on that horse again."

Midfielder Karen Carney echoed her coach's evaluation of the play-off, suggesting that England would benefit more from defeat.

"It was tough. We’ve given everything and part of me is glad we haven’t won it," she said.

"If we want to go and win the Olympics and the Euros, we have to have a fire in the belly. We have to dig deeper.

"We should not be afraid to say that we want to win the gold medal. No disrespect to Sweden or this game, but I’m kind of glad we didn’t win."