'Heartbroken' Houghton devastated after pen miss
England captain Steph Houghton was "heartbroken" after missing a penalty in the 2-1 Women's World Cup semifinal defeat to the United States on Tuesday -- the Lionesses' third defeat at the last-four stage in major tournaments.
"I'm heartbroken but I'm very proud of the team because we fought so hard in this tournament. It was so close against the best team in the world but we are so disappointed," said Houghton, who had a chance to level the game in the 84th minute but saw her weak penalty saved by U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher.
"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," she said.
Christen Press had put the U.S. ahead before Ellen White equalised for England in the 19th minute only for Alex Morgan to restore the lead for the defending champions.
"I thought we were the better side in terms of how we played football but, ultimately, lapses in concentration cost us," admitted Houghton.
England boss Phil Neville unequivocally backed Houghton -- and the rest of the team -- after her penalty miss, hailing the heart and soul they showed over the course of their World Cup run.
Neville said: "She's had an incredible year. She's an amazing person on and off the pitch and she'll deal with it the way that she does. She's been phenomenal and no blame should be attached to her.
"My players gave me everything. We said before the game we wanted to leave our hearts and souls on that pitch and they did, they gave everything," Neville said following the match.
"We've gone toe to toe with the best team in the world, they showed great experience at the end with taking the ball into the corner.
"We should be proud, we've touched the hearts of the nation back home and they've left their hearts on that football field so I'm happy.
"I can't ask anything more, we've had the time of our lives and they've really played their hearts out."
White, who has scored six goals in the tournament, had a potential equaliser ruled out for offside after video review and was distraught at the end of the game.
"I'm going to cry. I'm devastated not to get to the final. All I feel is pride for my teammates," White said. "USA had an amazing match and we just couldn't match them. I'm proud to be English and I wish them all the best in the final.
"We gave everything. In the first half we were sloppy. We got ourselves back into the game with the goal and it's bitterly disappointing. We've got an unbelievable squad and we had so much belief that we'd get to that final but we just couldn't do that on the day."
White was also quick to offer support to her captain after the dramatic game.
"The person stepping up takes a lot of courage and we'll never put anything on Steph -- she's our leader. We'll rally around her and get ready for Saturday."
England will play the losers of Wednesday's other semifinal, between the Netherlands and Sweden, in the third-place game in Nice on Saturday.
Information from Reuters was used in this story.