Manager Phil Neville says England must improve “by 20%” after losing a “nonsense” third-place play-off to Sweden at the Women’s World Cup.
The Lionesses arrived in France with hopes of going all the way but were beaten by the USA in the semi-final.
That meant they played Sweden in Nice on Saturday for the bronze medal but they lost 2-1.
“We came here to win it and not finish fourth. Well done to Sweden but it is a nonsense game,” said Neville.
“What it leaves us with is that we have another 15-20% to go. This is sport. We have to come back in four years and be better.”
Neville received some criticism for calling the match a “nonsense”, with Manchester United keeper Siobhan Chamberlain – a member of the Lionesses squad which finished third in Canada four years ago – saying: “Try telling the 23 players who went to Canada that a bronze-medal match is a ‘nonsense’ game.
“Winning a medal at a World Cup is a great achievement and I guarantee you every player out there wanted a medal just as much.”
After being pressed on his description of the game, Neville added: “We came to this tournament to win gold. Throughout my life, winning is all that matters – not finishing second, third or fourth. My players feel exactly the same way as me on this matter.
“We’ve not disrespected this game, we wanted to win more than anything. But we wanted to win gold. That’s why I said it’s a nonsense.
“In 2015 we won bronze with a performance that was great and we celebrated and applauded.
“It’s now 2019 and we wanted gold. Since losing that semi-final we’ve been hurting because it was a vision that we had and accepting second best is something we aren’t going to do.
“I’m not disrespecting anyone. No-one remembers the losers, just the winners, and eventually we will be.”
England were 2-0 down after 22 minutes after Kosovare Asllani and Sofia Jakobsson capitalised on poor defending.
The Lionesses improved after that, with Fran Kirby pulling a goal back with an excellent run and finish before Ellen White had a strike ruled out by VAR for handball.
Lucy Bronze saw a goalbound shot cleared off the line in the final minutes but ultimately England paid the price for their poor start.
“We were probably showing in those first 20 minutes the disappointment we felt from the USA game,” added Neville.
“The two goals sparked us into life and I don’t think I have seen us play better than we did after those first 20 minutes.
“We gave it our best shot, we fell short and we just have to make sure next time we are better.”
Midfielder Karen Carney, who made her final England appearance as a late substitute after announcing her retirement from football on Friday, believes losing the game could turn out to be a good thing for England.
“This isn’t a a disrespect to the bronze medal or a disrespect to Sweden – I’m actually glad we didn’t win,” she said.
“Because I believe in this team, I believe in the manager and I believe in the staff, and we have to be hungry and disappointed, and use that disappointment to go on.
“If we want to go and win the Olympics in 2020 and the Euros in 2021, we have to have a fire in the belly. We have to dig deeper.
“There’s more to come from this team and I’m going to be their number one fan.”
England’s next game is against Norway in Bergen on 3 September and Neville added: “I’ve got to make sure when we come back in August that we lift the bar even more and that my performances are better because the players deserve better.
“I can’t ask any more from the players. They know what they’ve got to do and I know what I’ve got to do.”