This isn’t how it was meant to end for England.
Hope turned to heartbreak.
There was to be no addition to the trophy cabinet for the European champions a year on from Wembley glory. Just sadness in Sydney.
They’ve turned disharmony into delirium – a campaign that looked like it was going to be derailed by 15 players quitting international duty last September has ended with the biggest prize of them all.
Only three of the rebel group decided to return to the squad following protests against their treatment by the Spanish Federation.
It is a reminder this World Cup has been surrounded by concerns about the status of players within national football associations.
Even the Lionesses head home from this tournament not only without the trophy, but into talks with the Football Association about the bonuses they believe they’re owed.
They will see this as a missed opportunity as well to conquer the world for the first time, as all the former champions had been toppled before the semi-finals.
The Lionesses were the favourites, but ultimately Spain were supreme in the final.
Sarina Wiegman‘s side was reliant on Mary Earps producing several huge saves, including a penalty in the second half that could have seen Spain double their lead.
Even taking that slender 1-0 deficit into the final 20 minutes, England couldn’t find a way to goal.
Now they’ll regroup.
Many of these players will be trying to qualify through the Nations League for the Paris Olympics, where they’ll compete as part of a British team next year.
Then there’s the defence of their Euros title in 2025 before they can set their sights on trying to finally win the World Cup in 2027.