England missed out on a third-placed finish at the Women’s World Cup as they were beaten 2-1 by Sweden in their play-off in Nice.
Sweden raced into a 2-0 lead at the Allianz Riviera, with Kosovare Asllani firing in in the 11th minute after an Alex Greenwood error and Sofia Jakobsson adding a fine strike in the 22nd.
Phil Neville’s Lionesses replied through Fran Kirby’s left-footed effort just after the half-hour mark and two minutes later the ball was in the Swedes’ net again courtesy of an Ellen White finish.
But, just had been the case in the 2-1 semi-final loss to the United States four days earlier, White had what she had thought was an equaliser disallowed following a VAR review.
This time the forward – the tournament’s joint top-scorer with six goals – was judged to have been guilty of a handball.
White’s frustration at the decision was clear, and it ended up a disappointing outing overall for the team after they had the better of the second half but were unable to save themselves from defeat, with Lucy Bronze seeing a late strike cleared off the line by Nilla Fischer.
Instead they must settle for fourth, while Sweden, the 2003 runners-up, take home bronze for a third time.After the defeat, manager Neville suggested his players were perhaps suffering a hangover after their heartbreaking defeat by USA in the semi-final.
He said: “I think maybe there was carry on from the semi-final – the emotion.
“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.
“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.
“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.”