Millie Bright: England will bounce back from World Cup 2023 disappointment

millie bright england captain

Captain Millie Bright is confident England will emerge a stronger side after processing the gut-wrenching reality of finishing as World Cup runners-up.

The Lionesses overcame the odds and disproved the doubters in an expanded month-long competition that saw 32 teams narrowed down to two for the first time, Spain and England, both making their grand final debuts.

Olga Carmona’s first-half strike in Sydney proved enough to send La Roja home with the trophy, while England were reminded that football can be a cruel game after opener Lauren Hemp almost hit the crossbar.

Bright said: “The mentality has always been there. The character was there too. We show it day after day and in every game. We just played in the World Cup final, it’s hard to see it like that at the moment. I’m proud of the girls.

“We played on the highest stage. We had the chance to compete for the trophy we always wanted, but this is not the end of the road and we will definitely be back. But for now, we’ll let it settle.”

While each of Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses will regret and process the loss differently, their captain is the only member of the team for whom it is also a birthday this morning.

Bright, who turns 30 today, inherited the captain’s armband ahead of the World Cup from Euro 2022 captain Leah Williamson, who was forced to miss the tournament after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in April.

Beth Mead, last summer’s Golden Boot winner, was also unavailable for selection after failing to recover from the same problem in time, while Chelsea midfielder Fran Kirby was sidelined with a separate knee problem.

Perhaps some in the England camp are now wondering what might have been had those European champions been available, or perhaps not, but the only regrets Bright was willing to share after coming so close to bringing the World Cup to England were minor moments that made a difference.

“There’s probably a million different feelings,” Bright said. “Pride, disappointment, heartbreak that we didn’t win.

“We left the field with our heads held high, knowing that we gave absolutely everything to the game. Especially in the second half, we left it all.

“We didn’t take our chances today and those are the small differences that decide football in a final against a top team.

“You get chances and hit the crossbar, the keeper saves. They get theirs and put them on the net.”

Bright, whose club boss Emma Hayes was ITV’s World Cup pundit, will soon return to Chelsea to look at the shootout to replace outgoing captain Magda Eriksson.

But before the Blues begin their campaign in search of a fifth straight Women’s Super League (WSL) title against Tottenham on October 1, Bright and the Lionesses will face Scotland and then the Netherlands in the new UEFA Women’s Nations League at the end of September.

This competition will decide which two European teams join co-hosts France at the Paris Olympics, which start in just 340 days.

Perhaps next year’s birthday will be accompanied by a fresh gold medal from the Games, but for now Bright is grateful for the support that helped her secure silver at the World Championships.

She added: “It was unbelievable. it’s unreal. Thank you for believing in us. I hope you enjoyed the ride. It was amazing. It’s hard to see it that way. It was unbelievable. We had an opportunity and won a medal that not many other players have.”

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