Sarina Wiegman admitted she “didn’t know what to say” to her players after the Lionesses failed to qualify for the Nations League finals and Team GB's Olympic dream also ended despite thrashing Scotland 6-0 at Hampden Park.
England needed to better the Netherlands’ margin of victory over Belgium by three goals on the night, and thought they had done so when Lucy Bronze made it 6-0 to England with the last action of the game.
The Netherlands were 3-0 up at that point, but five minutes later scored a fourth deep into injury time in Tilburg after England’s game had finished, to finish top of Nations League Group A1 and reach the finals at the Lionesses’ expense.
This tournament serves as Olympic qualification for Paris 2024, and so England’s failure to top the group confirmed there will be no Team GB in the women’s football tournament next summer.
“I actually don’t know what to say”, said a gutted Wiegman after the match. “If you don’t get through on goal difference then it’s just not enough. Those are the facts.
“We were waiting. Those were long minutes, but we really thought we got it. When Lucy scored that goal, I thought: 'We’re going to get this.’
"Then when it was obvious that we didn’t make it, I said: ‘I actually don’t know what to say. I can just say that I’m really proud of the performance.’
“It’s the first time I’ve had such a big disappointment [of this kind in my career], and I think we still performed really well, so that’s hard to take. I thought we were going to get it, but it was not enough.”
Wiegman continued: “If we win 6-0, that doesn’t happen very often anymore in the women’s game. Six goals is a lot, but if the Netherlands also scored four goals then it’s obviously not enough.
“This will take a little bit of time [to get over], but we’ll be back and I’m convinced we’ll keep growing.”
Asked what fixtures are planned for February when England would have been playing in the Nations League finals if they had qualified, Wiegman replied: “We’ll go and play some friendlies. That’s in progress and I haven’t spoken about that yet with our players. It’s not all set in stone, but we have plans ready to fill in.”
Wiegman was not willing to accept that no Olympic campaign might be a good thing for affording her players a rest.
“You want to go to every major tournament”, she said. “The career of a football player is [only] a certain amount of time. If you can play every major tournament, every player wants that.”