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Millie Bright: England will bounce back from World Cup disappointment

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Captain Millie Bright is confident England will emerge a stronger side after processing the gut-wrenching reality of finishing as World Cup runners-up.

The Lionesses overcame obstacles and disproved doubters over the expanded month-long competition, which for the first time saw 32 teams whittled down to two, Spain and England, who were both making their debuts in the showpiece final.

Olga Carmona’s first-half strike in Sydney proved enough to send La Roja home with the trophy, while England were reminded that football can be a game of cruel inches after Lauren Hemp’s near-opener pinged off the crossbar.

Bright said: “The mentality has always been there. The character has been there, too. We show that, day in, day out, and in every game. We’ve just played in a World Cup final, it’s hard to see it like that at the moment. I’m proud of the girls.

“We’ve played on the highest stage. We’ve had a shot at competing for the trophy we have always wanted but this isn’t the end of the journey and we will definitely bounce back. For now, though, we’ll let it settle.”

While each of Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses will rue and process the loss differently, their skipper is the sole member of the squad for whom the morning after also happens to be a birthday.

Bright, who turns 30 today, inherited the captain’s armband before the World Cup from Euro 2022-winning skipper Leah Williamson, who was forced to miss the tournament after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in April.

Beth Mead, last summer’s Golden Boot winner, was also unavailable for selection after she was unable to recover in time from the same problem, while Chelsea midfielder Fran Kirby missed out with a separate knee issue.

Perhaps some inside the England camp are now wondering what might have been had those European champions been available, or perhaps not, but the only regrets Bright was willing to share after coming so close to bringing the World Cup home to England were the minor moments that made the difference. 

“There are probably one million different feelings,” said Bright. “Pride, disappointment, heartbroken that we didn’t win.

“We came off the pitch holding our heads high, knowing that we have given absolutely everything in the game. In the second half especially we left it all out there.

“We didn’t take our chances today and those are the small margins that decide football in a final against a top, top team.

“You get those chances and hit the crossbar, the keeper makes saves. They get theirs and put it in the net.”

Bright, whose club boss Emma Hayes was an ITV pundit for the World Cup, will soon return to Chelsea where she looks a shoo-in to replace departed captain Magda Eriksson.

But before the Blues kick-off their campaign in search of a fifth straight Women’s Super League (WSL) title against Tottenham on October 1, Bright and the Lionesses will face Scotland then the Netherlands in the new UEFA Women’s Nations League in late September.

That competition will decide which two European teams will join co-hosts France at the Paris Olympics, which begin in just 340 days.

Perhaps next year’s birthday will come accompanied with a fresh gold medal from those Games, but for now Bright is feeling grateful for the support that helped secure her World Cup silver.

She added: “It’s been incredible. It’s surreal. Thank you for believing in us. I hope you have enjoyed the ride. It’s been amazing. It’s hard to see it like that. It’s been incredible. We’ve had an opportunity and we’ve gained a medal that not many other players have got.”

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