Phil Neville challenged England to show the courage of champions and return stronger from their Women’s World Cup heartache after losing 2-1 against Sweden in the third-place play-off in Nice.
The Lionesses showed a hangover from their semi-final defeat by the United States as Sweden raced into a 2-0 lead at the Allianz Riviera.
Kosovare Asllani capitalised on a mistake from Alex Greenwood to open the scoring after 11 minutes, with a fine effort from Sofia Jakobsson doubling the lead.
Fran Kirby pulled a goal back just after the half-hour mark and two minutes later the ball was in the Swedes’ net again courtesy of Ellen White, only for the effort to be ruled out for handball following a VAR review.
Lucy Bronze saw a late effort cleared off the line by Nilla Fischer as England failed to match the bronze medal secured at the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
Head coach Neville, though, maintained the efforts of his squad in France should be used as a building block towards the next campaign.
“We gave it our best shot, but fell short. We have just got to make sure that next time we are better,” Neville said on BBC One.
“Well done Sweden but it (third-place play-off) is a nonsense game.
“Probably in that first 20 minutes we were still showing the disappointment of what we felt against USA.
“We came to this tournament to win it, not to finish fourth. Now we just have to make sure that every single one of us is better.”
The England head coach believes his squad can return home proud of their efforts.
“The courage my players had, the bravery they played with, the spirit and togetherness, everything I have wanted for 18 months, they have come here and delivered, with the style of play,” Neville said.
“What it leaves us is we have got another 15 or 20 per cent to go, but that is sport and you just have to come back in four years’ time and be better.
“There is many a champion that has had to suffer before they get what they think they deserve. My players are suffering but I am immensely proud.
“We go home tomorrow, will spend time with our families, then in two weeks’ time we will dissect and debrief, and get back on that horse again.”