LONDON (Reuters) - England's players were met by adoring fans on Monday at London's Heathrow Airport when they returned home from the Women's World Cup in Canada where they finished third.
The 'Lionesses' proudly wore the bronze medals they won by beating Germany 1-0 after extra time in the third-place playoff.
Family, friends and supporters were on hand to welcome Mark Sampson's team back to home soil after an overnight flight.
Having lost their opening group game to France, England then beat Mexico and Colombia before defeating Norway and hosts Canada in the knockout stages.
Their run was halted by Japan in the semi-finals when an injury-time Laura Bassett own goal sent England out in a 2-1 defeat.
Bassett, a defender with Notts County, said the spirit in the camp had helped her deal with the heartbreak of defeat. "I'm lucky that my team mates were incredible with me. All the messages of support from back home really help. But I'd still give anything to change that moment", she told the BBC.
Japan, in turn, saw their World Cup dream destroyed in Sunday's final by a rampant United States, who won 5-2 after a blistering first half in which they raced into a 4-0 lead.
Lucy Bronze, who was short-listed for player of the tournament, summed up England's campaign in a single word - "spectacular" the Manchester City right back said. "It's something we dreamed about and thought we could do, but to come out with a medal is just a whole different story," she told the FA.com.
The hope now is that women's football in England will receive a boost with the team kicking off their Euro 2017 qualifying campaign in September.
They are in the same group as Belgium, Serbia, Bosnia and Estonia.