‘They deserve it’: Calls to honour Lionesses after heroic World Cup ends in heartbreak

UK

England fans are calling for the Lionesses to be given honours and a homecoming parade following their efforts at the World Cup.

Sarina Wiegman‘s side suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat in the final against Spain on Sunday.

It was Spain’s first major tournament win, and England’s first defeat under their Dutch coach in two years.

‘Pride’ over Lionesses – relive World Cup final as it happened

Soccer Football - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Final - Spain v England - Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia - August 20, 2023 Spain players celebrate with the trophy after winning the World Cup REUTERS/Carl Recine
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Spain lifted the trophy after a 1-0 win

Soccer Football - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Final - Spain v England - Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia - August 20, 2023 England players pose with their runners up medals after the match REUTERS/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake
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England’s stars picked up runners-up medals after the final

Had the Lionesses won, they would have been the first England football team to lift a World Cup since 1966.

Despite falling short, many supporters are hoping they get a hero’s welcome when they fly back from Sydney.

“There should still be a homecoming parade or celebration for the Lionesses,” one posted on X, formerly Twitter.

“They need to know the effect and pride they have inspired throughout the tournament.”

Another said: “Gutted but so proud. I hope there is a homecoming parade for when they’re back, they deserve it.”

“Still want the parade,” said another post.

“I still want Trafalgar Square. I still want the laps of honour at their home grounds.”

Some fans are hoping for a parade through London and a visit to Downing Street or Buckingham Palace.

The Lionesses enjoyed raucous celebrations with tens of thousands of people in the capital after their last major tournament appearance, though that had seen them lift the European Championship trophy.

But they did not enjoy a Downing Street reception, prompting criticism of then prime minister Boris Johnson.

There was one planned for the men’s team after their Euros final defeat to Italy in 2021, but it was dropped amid a racism row that saw some players criticise ministers for their stance on taking the knee.

Gareth Southgate’s side did not enjoy a parade, either, despite some fans wishing to show their appreciation.

Previous men’s teams had been recognised for their near-miss campaigns, notably with a parade in Luton after the 1990 World Cup semi-finals.

Analysis: Spain turn disharmony into delirium to beat England

Soccer Football - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Final - Spain v England - Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia - August 20, 2023 England's Chloe Kelly in action with Spain's Olga Carmona REUTERS/Jaimi Joy
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England’s Chloe Kelly in action with Spain’s Olga Carmona

England's Lucy Bronze, left, fights for the ball against Spain's Mariona Caldentey during the Women's World Cup soccer final between Spain and England at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
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England’s Lucy Bronze fights for the ball against Spain’s Mariona Caldentey

PM told to recognise Lionesses with honours

Rishi Sunak has repeatedly voiced his admiration for the Lionesses this summer, and hosted some stars at Downing Street earlier this year.

“We are all incredibly proud of you,” he posted on X after the final.

But he has batted away questions about how their World Cup efforts could be recognised when they return home, ruling out a bank holiday even if they had won the final.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had called for the day off in the event of victory, and was quick to call for honours following the match on Sunday.

“They’ve inspired a generation of women and girls to play football, take up sport, and to remove any doubt in their minds that they too can go all the way in their chosen field,” he said.

“There’s no doubt they should be recognised by the honours system.”

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey echoed the call, saying “everyone on the team” deserved an honour.

England fans react during a screening of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 final between England and Spain at BOXPARK Wembley, London after lost by 1-0. Picture date: Sunday August 20, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story SPORT Lionesses. Photo credit should read: Lucy North/PA Wire
Devastated Lionesses fan
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England fans watching at home were left devastated

Keeper Earps the pick of the bunch

Four Lionesses received honours earlier this year to mark their Euros success, with captain Leah Williamson – who missed the World Cup through injury – getting an OBE.

Beth Mead, Lucy Bronze and Ellen White were made MBEs, while Wiegman received an honorary CBE.

Fans and pundits alike will likely feel few deserve recognition more this time than goalkeeper Mary Earps, whose sublime performances saw her pick up the World Cup’s golden glove award.

The Manchester United star kept the Lionesses in the game against Spain, saving a second-half penalty from striker Jennifer Hermoso to stop them going 2-0 behind.

She had no chance with the only goal, a precise 29th minute strike into the bottom corner by Olga Carmona.

England's goalkeeper Mary Earps blocks a penalty shot from Spain's Jennifer Hermoso during the Women's World Cup soccer final between Spain and England at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
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England’s goalkeeper Mary Earps saved a penalty

Demand for replica shirts

Supporters will at the very least hope her heroics see England’s kit maker Nike put her replica shirt on sale, having refused before the tournament kicked off.

Nine-year-old Alice Grundy, a budding goalkeeper from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, describes Earps as her hero and wants the opportunity to wear her shirt.

Her mother, Kimberley Grundy, said Earps was “an inspiration” and Nike’s stance was “disgusting”.

Sophie Judge, who’s six and from Leeds, also wants an Earps shirt. Her mother, Leanne Judge, said she would “feel like she was playing the part of her hero”.

Sports giant Nike, which sells a men’s England goalkeeper shirt on its website for £80 as well as both men’s and women’s outfield players’ kits, has said it understands the demand and is “working towards solutions for future tournaments”.

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Wiegman: ‘We can be very proud of ourselves’

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‘Right now we’re just disappointed’

Once the Lionesses are back on home soil, they can look forward to some time off before their next game.

They will take on rivals Scotland in the Nations League at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light on 22 September.

The domestic Women’s Super League does not return until 1 October.

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