The second-half stretch that turned hope into heartbreak for England
LYON, France -- There had been plenty of drama and controversy leading into the semifinal clash between the U.S. national team and England, but the match that unfolded Tuesday at the Women's World Cup had a bit of everything: pregame drama, physical play, controversial calls, a penalty kick and a red card. But the Lionesses' fate -- a 2-1 loss against the defending champs -- could be encapsulated in a 20-minute span in the second half. We break down the key moments of that stretch, including statistical impacts and reaction on social media.
67th minute: Ellen White apparently scores, but ...
With the Americans up 2-1, Keira Walsh advanced the ball with a perfect pass to Jill Scott, who flicked the ball to White. The forward held off two center-backs and placed the ball past U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. After a roughly two-minute delay, VAR intervened and match official Edina Alves Batista disallowed the goal. It was a tight call, but White's foot was just a hair offside."I was disappointed with that offside, but I'm proud to be English. I'm just devastated," White said. "We gave everything." Added England coach Phil Neville: "The disallowed goal was offside. We've had VAR decisions that have gone our way, but we got on with it, we came back."
79th minute: Another VAR check gives England second chance
Another short-game play from England gave White another solid goal-scoring opportunity. The ball was swung into the six-yard box by Demi Stokes and uncharacteristically for White, she failed to make contact when presented with a straightforward chance. Alves Batista was pinged by officials over her headset, leading to another VAR review. Her on-field decision was reversed after an almost five-minute review showed Becky Sauerbrunn making contact with White's right leg. England was awarded the penalty and Sauerbrunn was handed a yellow card for the foul. "I thought there was contact, but if I didn't go for it, she was going to score," Sauerbrunn said after the match. "But it was a legitimate move for the ball." Added Neville: "When we got the penalty, I turned to my bench and said, '[We've] won this.' But it wasn't to be."
84th minute: The penalty kick
Steph Houghton lined up to take the penalty kick, an opportunity to even the match at 2-all -- but the England captain and defender didn't seem to get all of the ball with her right foot, sending a low shot not far enough into the bottom left corner. Naeher read the shot the whole way, diving to make the save for her biggest stop of the tournament.
"She saved our ass," U.S. player of the game Alex Morgan said of Naeher. Added Sauerbrunn: "To celebrate with her after the match, that was huge. We'll talk about that save for years."
After the match, reporters questioned why Houghton lined up for the penalty kick.
"She was the best penalty-taker on the pitch when we won the penalty," Neville said. "We couldn't speak about this before the games. But for six months now, we've gone into the most in-depth, practice-analysis process that any team has been through, and now we miss three penalties on the World Cup. In terms of penalty scoring rate in training, and success rate, Nikita [Parris] was our No. 1 penalty-taker and then she missed two goals. We spoke to Nikita and the team during the week and we agreed the next-best penalty-taker would take the penalty and that thorough process led to Steph Houghton. It was six months of 100-150 penalties that the team have took, you score some and you miss some. That's football."
Added Houghton: "I got told today that I was on the penalties and I was confident because I had been scoring all week. But I didn't connect with it properly and the goalkeeper guessed the right way. I've let the team down, but we've got to try to get a bronze medal now. I hold myself to high standards. I'm gutted and heartbroken. It's not just about me, but in those actions it is. We were so close, but I'm proud of everyone because we gave it everything. I thought we were the better side in terms of how we played football, but ultimately, lapses in concentration cost us."
With the miss, England failed to convert on three out of four penalty-kick opportunities in the tournament -- the most misses by a country in a Women's World Cup since 2011; Parris had taken the previous three attempts. Naeher, meanwhile, is the first U.S. keeper to save a non-shootout penalty kick at the Women's World Cup.
Alyssa freaking Naeher @AlyssaNaeher thank you for your many saves today. You showed up!! Onto the finals!!!!— Abby Wambach (@AbbyWambach) July 2, 2019
86th minute: Red card for England
With a yellow card already in tow after connecting with Morgan's face in the 40th minute, England defender Millie Bright struck at Morgan again, this time coming in with her studs up on a tackle. A second yellow of the match equaled a red card for Bright. The Lionesses went down to 10 players, and the back-to-back blows from the missed penalty kick and the red card seemed to take the wind out of their sails. "Millie shouldn't have got booked in the first half, 100 percent," Neville said. "I didn't really think the referee was in control of the game, to be honest with you. Millie got sent off and we went to three at the back and it became stretched. I can't ask for anything more. I didn't want to see tears. You lose, but I thought the way we lost was exactly how we wanted to play. Win, lose or draw, we wanted to play a certain style. The courage they had, they left everything out there with no regrets. We've come to the World Cup and we've given it our all. There should be smiles and we've had the best 46 days of our lives."
Final: United States 2, England 1
With the victory, the United States remains perfect against England in a men's or women's World Cup, improving to to 3-1-0 (W-D-L); meanwhile, England's team-record six-game Women's World Cup winning streak and 380-minute stretch without conceding a goal both came to an end.
ESPN reporters Tom Hamilton, Graham Hays and Alyssa Roenigk contributed to this story.