Women's World Cup: Third place play-off a nonsense game, says England's Phil Neville

England's performance after going two goals down against Sweden was one of their best at the Women's World Cup, according to Phil Neville.

Phil Neville

Phil Neville did not have kind things to say about the knockout format of the World Cup after the third-place playoff against Sweden on Saturday.   -  Getty Images

Phil Neville described the Women's World Cup third place play-off as "a nonsense game" after England lost 2-1 to Sweden.

Goals from Kosovare Asllani and Sofia Jakobsson inside the opening 22 minutes put Sweden in front and Fran Kirby's strike was all England could muster in reply, although Ellen White had an equaliser ruled out by VAR.

Peter Gerhardsson's side withstood an improved attacking performance from the Lionesses in the second half and the defeat denied England a second consecutive World Cup bronze medal.

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Neville accepted his players were still reeling from their 2-1 semi-final defeat to the United States, a game in which captain Steph Houghton failed to convert a late penalty to level the scores.

"Maybe we carried the emotions from the semi-final," Neville told BBC Sport. "The [Sweden] two goals sparked us into life, and I don't think we've played better than we did after that.

"Both teams are on their knees, they gave everything. We gave it our best shot and fell short, and we've got to make sure next time we're better."

Asked whether his players lacked the mental strength to maintain their form from earlier in the tournament, Neville said: "I'm not sure it's mental. We had some Incredible highs against the US and today we had a game that was difficult to get up for.

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"Well done to Sweden but it's a nonsense game. In the first 20 minutes we were still showing the disappointment from the USA game. We came here to win it. We didn't come to finish fourth.

"Enjoyment, courage, bravery, spirit, togetherness – they delivered everything I wanted. What it leaves us with is the fact we've got another 20 per cent to go. Many a champion has had to suffer before they get what they deserve. I'm immensely proud."

Sweden celebrated its third bronze medal after a game Gerhardsson described as being "like a boxing match".

England fired 14 shots at Sweden's goal but, after Kirby's solo effort, could not find a way to beat goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl or defender Nilla Fischer, who headed a late Lucy Bronze shot off the line.

Gerhardsson told reporters, "This is the strangest football game I have ever experienced. It almost felt like a boxing match.

"We were down on the floor at one point, but then we got back up again came up again and won. A fantastic effort."

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