THE Lionesses were hailed as heroes by royalty last night who declared them the pride of England despite a shattering World Cup final loss to Spain.
FA President Prince William, who watched it at home with his family, spoke for millions when he told Sarina Wiegman’s inspirational side they had “done this nation proud”.
GettyDownhearted Lionesses in disbelief after losing to Spain in the World Cup Final[/caption]
GettyOlga Carmona slides a deft shot past Mary Earps to put Spain in the lead[/caption]
ReutersA dejected Lucy Bronze is consoled by an opponent after losing the match[/caption]
Hero keeper Mary Earps, who pulled off a superb penalty save, was among several players who wept on the pitch after the devastating 1-0 defeat in Sydney.
Sarina, 53, and her heartbroken squad then had to look on as the delirious Spaniards deservedly collected their winners’ medals at Stadium Australia.
It could have been worse for England when Jenni Hermoso stepped up for a spot-kick on 67 minutes — awarded after an agonising VAR intervention for handball.
But Earps, who won the Golden Glove award, saved brilliantly then yelled “f*** off” to the opposition as she rallied her teammates.
Despite late pressure, Spain clung on to win the tournament for the first time, breaking the hearts of England who were not expected to get this far.
William, 41 — criticised for not attending — wrote: “Although it’s the result none of us wanted, Lionesses you have done yourselves and the nation proud. Your spirit and drive have inspired so many people and paved the way for generations to come.
“Thank you for the footballing memories. Congratulations to Spain. W.”
Charles, 74, sent a message to England’s beaten Lionesses later: “While I know how sore it must be, let none of you feel defeated, for to have reached the final at all is an immense tribute to your skill, determination and team spirit in the finest sporting tradition.
“It will serve as an inspiration for generations to come.”
PM Rishi Sunak said they “left nothing out there”.
Labour leader Keir Starmer added: “Heartbreaking. So proud of the England team who inspired the whole country. This is just the beginning.”
Match of the Day host Gary Linker said he was “gutted” for England but added of Spain: “They were the better team and thoroughly deserved their victory.”
Talk TV host and Sun columnist Piers Morgan agreed, posting on X/Twitter: “Our women can’t bring it home either. Good effort, Lionesses but the better team won. Congrats to Spain.”
She said: “I thought that Spain were a little better than us today and they had a great tournament, so congratulations to them.
“Of course it feels really bad now — very, very disappointed.”
The gaffer, who lost to the US in the last World Cup final when manager of her native Holland, added: “When you get to the final you want to win, but in sports you can also lose.
“I think we can be so proud of ourselves now although it doesn’t feel like it at the moment.”
Spain’s triumph came amid turbulence behind the scenes of their national team.
There were boos when manager Jorge Vilda picked up his winner’s medal and held the trophy aloft.
Some 15 of their top players wrote to the Spanish Football Federation last year asking not to be picked — citing a lack of “professionalism”.
After the game, the disconsolate Lionesses completed a lap of honour — while stars past and present predicted they would be back.
Devastated England defender Lucy Bronze, who plays for Barcelona, was consoled by Spaniard Ona Batlle, her club teammate.
But captain Millie Bright said: “At first you feel you’ve failed — but this is not it from us, and we will bounce back.”
I’m A Celebrity winner Jill Scott, 36 — part of the winning Euros side — added: “These Lionesses are going to keep progressing.”
ReutersHeartache for Hemp as she is hugged by sub Esme Morgan[/caption]
ReutersA despondent Sarina Wiegman looks on after the match[/caption]
Keira Walsh and Alex Greenwood look broken after the defeatRex
PAAlex Greenwood walks past the elusive trophy with her runner up medal[/caption]
GettyThe players collect their runner up medals after losing the final[/caption]