England’s Lionesses are back on home soil after finishing fourth at the Women’s World Cup in France.
Phil Neville’s players posed for one final group shot on the steps of their plane after flying back from Nice to Birmingham on Sunday afternoon.
They have captivated and inspired the nation over the past few weeks by reaching the semi-finals, where they lost agonisingly to the United States.
And though their tournament ended on a low note with a 2-1 loss to Sweden in Saturday’s third-place play-off, they return to England with their reputation enhanced following a series of strong performances.
The growing popularity of the women’s game was shown by the remarkable television audience of 11.7million during their semi-final with the US.
Enthusiasm for the sport is set to grow further with England’s performance earning Great Britain a place in the women’s tournament at the Tokyo Olympics next year.
The next European Championship, in 2021, is also set to be held in England, offering another excellent chance to inspire the next generation.
The likes of Lucy Bronze and Ellen White return as household names, though White may miss out on the Golden Boot to Alex Morgan, who has also scored six goals and still has Sunday’s final against Holland to come.
Coach Phil Neville vowed that England would return to become winners at a World Cup.
‘It’s now 2019 and we wanted gold. Since losing that semi-final we’ve been hurting because it was a vision that we had and accepting second best is something we aren’t going to do.
‘I’m not disrespecting anyone. No-one remembers the losers, just the winners, and eventually we will be.’
The Lionesses return to action with friendly matches against Norway on September 3 and Germany – at Wembley Stadium – on November 9.