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Lionesses have ‘inspired millions’ despite falling short in first World Cup final

England narrowly lost 1-0 to Spain during the game in Sydney on Sunday.

Josh Payne
Sunday 20 August 2023 22:51 BST
England fans celebrate after seeing England goalkeeper Mary Earps make a penalty save during a screening of the Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023 final between Spain and England at BOXPARK Croydon, London (Aaron Chown/PA)
England fans celebrate after seeing England goalkeeper Mary Earps make a penalty save during a screening of the Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023 final between Spain and England at BOXPARK Croydon, London (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

Celebrities, royals and politicians have said the Lionesses have “inspired millions” and “paved the way for generations to come” despite their narrow World Cup final defeat.

Olga Carmona’s first-half strike was enough to see off Sarina Wiegman’s team with fans agonisingly watching on as England were unable to make a breakthrough in Sydney on Sunday.

Despite the 1-0 defeat, fans were quick to congratulate the team on the “fantastic” work they had done for the women’s game.

The Prince of Wales tweeted a personal message to the Lionesses after the match, saying their “spirit and drive have inspired so many people”.

William faced criticism ahead of the game for electing not to attend the match in person, instead watching the final alongside the Princess of Wales and Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis at home in Sandringham, Norfolk.

In his message to the England team, the prince said: “Although it’s the result none of us wanted, @Lionesses you have done yourselves and this nation proud.

“Your spirit and drive have inspired so many people and paved the way for generations to come.

“Thank you for the footballing memories. Congratulations to Spain.”

No senior member of the British royal family attended the match, but Queen Letizia of Spain was there with her 16-year-old daughter Infanta Sofia in order to show her country’s commitment to national football.

Heir to the throne William apologised to the Lionesses for not being there in a video message on Saturday.

The King and Queen appeared not to be watching the game 30 minutes after kick-off as they were seen heading to church at Crathie Kirk in Balmoral.

Supporters had flocked to pubs and bars for the 11am kick-off, with the game tipped to give a £185 million boost to the UK economy.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak posted on Twitter, now known as X, to say everyone was “incredibly proud” of the team despite the loss.

They will all be devastated but look what it’s done, not just for girls’ football but for women’s sport. It’s fantastic

Samantha Harrison, England fan in Norfolk

He said: “You left absolutely nothing out there Lionesses.

“It wasn’t to be, but you’ve already secured your legacy as game changers.

“We are all incredibly proud of you.”

Goalkeeper Mary Earps briefly gave England fans something to cheer about as her penalty save appeared to keep the Lionesses in the tie in the second half.

But former England striker Gary Lineker said Spain were the better team in the final despite the Lionesses giving their all.

He tweeted: “Gutted for the Lionesses who gave their all, but congratulations to Spain on winning the World Cup.

“They were the better team and thoroughly deserved their victory.”

A mother who watched the game at a screening in the home town of forward Lauren Hemp said she is “so proud” of the team.

Samantha Harrison, 52, who watched the match at the clubhouse at North Walsham Town FC, added: “This team gel so well together, they will come again.

“The team gave everything – I couldn’t ask for any more.

“Another day they would have been lucky, they would have won it.”

She said her daughter has played football since she was six and they live near the local football ground in North Walsham, Norfolk.

“We often see Lauren (Hemp) when she comes home at Christmas time,” said Ms Harrison.

“They will all be devastated but look what it’s done, not just for girls’ football but for women’s sport. It’s fantastic.”

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, who attended the game in Sydney on behalf of the Government, also spoke of how proud she was of the team, saying: “They inspired millions across the country with glorious performances, moments of magic and relentless determination and desire.

“An incredible journey has come to an end but it will never be forgotten.”

Manchester United and England defender Maya Le Tissier said she was “gutted” at the defeat, but “proud” of the Lionesses who are “an inspiration for everyone”.

Speaking at a screening of the game in London’s Olympic Park, she told the PA news agency: “Gutted obviously, we were so close but unfortunately it didn’t go our way, but I think we can be very proud of the players.

“They’ll be an inspiration for everyone, all the girls and the boys that now want to play for England.

“They’re a massive inspiration for everyone and I think you can see the impact it’s had on Australia as well as a nation.

“So yeah, they can be very happy with themselves.”

Amid the jubilant celebrations for the Spanish side, there was heartbreak for World Cup winning goal scorer and captain Olga Carmona, who learned after the match that her father had died.

The defender’s club Real Madrid announced the news, and the Spanish football federation (RFEF) offered their condolences, saying: “We send our most sincere hugs to Olga and her family in a moment of deep pain.”

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