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England Women’s World Cup ends with a distinctly England Men’s feel… but is that all bad?

Penalty heartbreak as part of a major tournament elimination? How painfully familiar...

And so England are eliminated from a major tournament in heartbreaking fashion.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Phil Neville’s side lost 2-1 to USA – the same result Croatia inflicted on Gareth Southgate’s men at last year’s World Cup at the same stage – but the Lionesses were not outclassed in Lyon, they were hustled.

Tough to take

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Tough to take

Alex Morgan and co are undoubtedly the best women’s side in the world — a fact that would still be true even if England had found a way to win.

In the group stages, we saw them at their swaggering best.

But their knockout victories against France and England reminded me of Real Madrid circa 2016-18 — triumphant almost through professionalism and street smarts alone.

And that’s not a criticism of USA (or Real Madrid), quite the opposite.

107 international goals and counting

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107 international goals and counting

USA are evidently fitter, stronger, faster; athletes one and all.

England have improved in this regard and they must continue to follow the American blueprint if they are to close the gap in physicality.

Some found Morgan’s tea-drinking celebration disrespectful.

Personally, I found it quite funny, although celebrations tailored to specific opponents is something of a taste tightrope.

We do drink a lot of tea, to be fair

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We do drink a lot of tea, to be fair

As for England, there’s a bitter irony in how they drifted too close to their male counterparts.

The Lionesses would have targeted victory, but more broadly, many had hoped the tournament would progress the women’s game as a whole.

A primary factor in this was the importance placed on treating it in the same way we would a men’s World Cup.

Unfortunately for England, they took this too literally.

Emotional scenes at full time

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Emotional scenes at full time

Ellen White’s expert finish gave hope before a series of incidents stripped it away in a brutal fashion familiar to those who endured the Sven-Goran Eriksson years.

First, the Golden Boot hopeful’s predatory one-on-one was ruled out by VAR for a marginal offside (correct decision).

Then, cruellest of all, England were awarded a penalty after the officials deliberated over 40-odd replays.

The long delay gave Steph Houghton plenty of time (too much time?) to think about the potential spot-kick.

Nikita Parris had missed two penalties in the tournament already and so the captain stepped up in the 84th minute with hopes of taking the semi-final to extra time.

However, like Chris Waddle, Stuart Pearce, Paul Ince, David Batty, David Beckham, Darius Vassell, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Jamie Carragher, Ashley Young, Ashley Cole, Jordan Henderson and Gareth Southgate, Houghton’s penalty induced only groans and tears from the England faithful.

Unforgettable

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Unforgettable

It may have come during normal time, rather than in a shootout, but penalty anguish as part of elimination is a conclusion with which England fans are well acquainted.

But will this pain benefit women’s football in this country in the long run?

The men’s many major tournament traumas make up their identity and defines our relationship with the national team.

Those from other nations often confuse the it’s-coming-home mentality for arrogance.

Perhaps because the angst and self-derision in the song is held up at the language barrier?

It’s coming home is not a conceited assumption, it is a declaration of hope in defiance of logic and experience.

If the Lionesses’ much-followed campaign in France establishes an identity for the public to relate to, then perhaps some good may come from the suffering.


NEXT: Can anyone end Chile’s ridiculously tedious Copa America stranglehold?

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