England boss Mark Sampson revealed his players were left in tears after their Women’s Euro 2017 dream was shattered by Holland in the semi-finals.
The Lionesses’ impressive campaign came to a sudden halt at the last-four stage as they were overpowered 3-0 by the vibrant host nation in Enschede.
Goals in each half from from Arsenal pair Vivianne Miedema and Danielle van de Donk spelt the end for Sampson’s side before misery was compounded by an injury-time Millie Bright own goal.
Sampson said: “I’ve got 24 devastated women in the changing room. They’ve shed a load of tears along with the staff but I’m incredibly proud of the team.
“Over the last year they’ve given absolutely everything to try to win this tournament. They couldn’t have left any more on the field, not just tonight but over the last year. I’m very proud of the team.”
England, who were punished for a scrappy start by Miedema’s powerful header, could find no way back after Van de Donk pounced on a Fara Williams mistake just after the hour.
England had to work hard for their opportunities but Ellen White was aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty in the first half.
Sampson said: “Sometimes things don’t go your way and in a game like tonight it’s a real bitter pill to swallow because the players have given so much. Tonight wasn’t our night.”
Sampson did acknowledge the occasion was a magnificent one for the women’s game with Holland backed by the majority of a colouful, noisy and partisan crowd at the 30,000-capacity home of FC Twente.
He said: “We knew it was always going to be difficult – the host nation, big crowd, incredibly motivated, excellent team. Congratulations to them. They’ve deserved their place in the final.
“As much as they made it difficult for us, the supporters made it a special night for women’s football. If there can be more games like that the women’s game will be in a fantastic place moving forward.”
Forward Fran Kirby could not hide her disappointment but immediately set her sights on the World Cup in two years’ time.
Kirby told BBC Radio Five Live: “They had a game plan and did it well and took their chances, credit to them. We had chances and could have had a few penalties. We are bitterly disappointed.
“We did great to get this far. We have put so much hard work in but fall short. In the team huddle we said, ‘Let’s go and win the World Cup in France’.”
With five goals across England’s run to the last four, Jodie Taylor is currently the competition’s top scorer.
“It just wasn’t our night,” she told Channel 4. “I don’t think things went our way. They’re a good team. It’s disappointing but things didn’t fall our way tonight. It wasn’t meant to be.”
Holland coach Sarina Wiegman was thrilled after her side maintained their superb run to reach Sunday’s final.
“It feels great, it’s amazing. If we’d said before we’d beat Sweden in the quarter-finals and England in the semis, everybody – and myself – would have said we’re crazy. But we did it and it’s fantastic.” (PA)