United States star Megan Rapinoe and three of her international team-mates are among 12 nominees for the Best FIFA Women's Player Award for 2019.

A first-time recipient will be named in Milan on September 23 after former winners Marta, Lieke Martens and Carli Lloyd all failed to make the shortlist.

Reign FC forward Rapinoe shapes as a strong contender after inspiring USA to glory at the Women's World Cup in France.

The 34-year-old scored six goals in five games, including one in the 2-0 victory over Netherlands in the final, to claim a Golden Ball-Golden Boot double.

Rapinoe's compatriots Alex Morgan, Rose Lavelle and Julie Ertz are also in contention, as are England pair Ellen White and Lucy Bronze, who claimed the Silver Ball.

Right-back Bronze and striker Ada Hegerberg, last year's inaugural Women's Ballon d'Or winner, feature among four players from the Lyon side that won the Women's Champions League.

The list of contenders has been expanded to 12 from the usual 10 due to a tie in the number of votes received by some nominees.

 

The Best FIFA Women's Player nominees:

Lucy Bronze (Lyon & England)
Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars & United States)
Caroline Graham Hansen (Barcelona & Norway)
Ada Hegerberg (Lyon)
Amandine Henry (Lyon & France)
Sam Kerr (Chicago Red Stars & Australia)
Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit & United States)
Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal & Netherlands)
Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride & United States)
Megan Rapinoe (Reign FC & United States)
Wendie Renard (Lyon & France)
Ellen White (Manchester City & England)

The United States have opened up the biggest gap at the top of the women's FIFA rankings in history following their World Cup triumph.

Jill Ellis' side won their second successive title last Sunday with a 2-0 victory over Netherlands in the final in Lyon.

They remain in first place in the international standings but now boast a record gap of 121 points over second-place Germany, who lost to Sweden in the quarter-finals.

Runners-up Netherlands are up five places to third, their best ever position, while bronze medallists Sweden climb three places to sixth.

France stay fourth, with England, beaten by USA in the semi-finals and then Sweden in the third-place play-off match, slip two places to fifth.

The biggest movers are the Philippines (67th place, up seven) and India (57th place, up six), who are rewarded for strong showings in qualifying for next year's Olympic Games.

The list now comprises 158 teams, up from 155, which is also an all-time record.

Phil Neville admitted his England players have "destroyed" him at the Women's World Cup as he opened up about his new-found sensitivity and the importance of creating a positive environment for the Lionesses to thrive in.

The former Manchester United and Everton midfielder said England's journey to the semi-finals, where they lost 2-1 to the United States, had left him more prone to teary moments and with a tendency to smile and relax, while describing his squad as "an unbelievable set of girls".

England lost 2-1 to Sweden in Saturday's third-place play-off – a game Neville wrote off as "a nonsense" - but he spoke about his pride in his players and his determination to reflect deeply on their performance.

"They destroyed me," Neville told 90min.com.

"They turned me into an emotional wreck. I cry at everything – I cry at watching Dirty Dancing now, and Pretty Woman. Because they are the most unbelievable set of girls, honestly they are.

"You think some days that they're not going to be up for today and they are. They drive each other forward. They inspire me.

"They've changed me. In life you're always at your best when you're happy and when you're having fun, and for these players to perform at their best I think at times I've needed to relax.

"I've always been a 100-miles-an-hour, eyeballs out, intense type of guy, but sometimes they like to see a smile, the smile gives them comfort and that feeling that you trust them and they've made me into that kind of person."

Neville has just short of two months to take stock of England's performance before the squad regroups for a friendly against Norway in September.

He indicated that the Lionesses, who were also eliminated from the World Cup at the semi-final stage in 2015, are playing the brand of football he has been aiming for since he took charge in January 2018.

"You have periods in the day when you think we were so close, and then you have periods where you get maybe a little bit angry that we should've done more," said Neville. "Maybe 12 months ago should we have been firmer.

"When you start reviewing some of the work you've done, some of your tactics or whatever, you do have to self-reflect. And I'm sure that after the tournament I'll probably do that more than anyone because ultimately the responsibility falls with me.

"We've still got to be proud of the work we've done and I'm proud of the way the players tried to play.

"The semi-final was enthralling. 56,000 people, my players playing the type of football I want them to play, every single player giving their all. I said to them at the start of the game, don't leave anything and they didn't leave anything. They left their hearts on the field."

Sweden clinched third place at the Women's World Cup for the third time after they exposed England's defensive frailties in a 2-1 bronze-medal match victory.

Kosovare Asllani and Sofia Jakobsson scored inside the opening 22 minutes at Allianz Riviera, where the Lionesses failed to recover from a slow start despite Fran Kirby pulling a goal back just after the half-hour.

Ellen White was denied the record of being the first player to score in six consecutive matches in the same tournament when a VAR review deemed she used her arm to control the ball before putting it in the net and Sweden locked the gates thereafter.

Karen Carney, who announced her decision to retire from football before the game, came on as a second-half substitute but there was to be no fairy-tale ending for her or for England.

England were pinned back from the outset and came undone when Alex Greenwood's poor clearance fell to the feet of Asllani, who rattled home a low drive that found the net despite Carly Telford getting a hand to it.

Telford made a good near-post save to deny Jakobsson but was powerless to prevent the Montpellier winger from curling a shot into the far corner after England's defenders allowed her to dribble into the box unchallenged.

Kirby revived a lacklustre Lionesses' performance when she powered into the area and drilled beyond Hedvig Lindahl moments before White had an equaliser disallowed for handball – the Golden Boot-chasing striker thwarted by a VAR review as she was in the semi-final defeat to the United States.

Julia Zigiotti Olme fired a low shot from 20 yards that tested Telford mid-way through a quieter second half that saw Sweden sit deep and defend their lead while England began to tire.

Neville sent on Carney for her 144th and final England appearance 17 minutes from time, while Nilla Fischer's brilliant goal-line clearance prevented Lucy Bronze from taking the game into an additional period.

Count Game of Thrones' Sophie Turner among those not offended by Alex Morgan's tea-sipping celebration against England.

United States captain Morgan's reaction to her Women's World Cup semi-final winner against the Lionesses on Tuesday sparked outrage, with England international Lianne Sanderson among those critical.

Some saw it as a shot against the English, where the hot beverage has links to American independence after colonists dumped a shipment in the sea in an event known as the Boston Tea Party.

Morgan launched a staunch defence of the celebration on Friday, saying it was not a jibe at England but rather a homage to Turner - who played Sansa Stark in the hit television series Game of Thrones and is known to sign off social media videos by drinking tea.

Striker Morgan also accused her critics of "double standards" when "you see men celebrating all around the world in big tournaments, grabbing their sacks", with Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Simeone having both received fines, but comparatively less attention, for crotch-grabbing celebrations in last season's Champions League.

And Turner, born in Northampton, England, has supported Morgan in an Instagram story she posted while on honeymoon.

"I feel like this deserves a mention," she said. "Unfortunately the UK [England] Women's football team lost at the World Cup, and of course I'm incredibly sad and incredibly proud of that team. But I am so honoured that we lost to such an incredible team - the US Women's football team.

"Alex Morgan, all those haters that are saying that this was disrespectful, I'm honoured that you thought of me and all those people that are hating on you are probably sitting at home, millennials, drinking kombucha, and I'm really f****** proud of you, Alex Morgan.

"Congratulations on your win - and that's the motherf****** tea."

Morgan posted Turner's video to her own Instagram account with the message "ILYSM! [I love you so much]. PS - CONGRATS!!"

England striker Toni Duggan has left Barcelona after two years with the Spanish giants.

Duggan moved from Manchester City Women in 2017 to try her luck overseas and helped Barcelona reach the final of last season's Champions League.

She scored 29 goals in 72 appearances for Barcelona, winning two domestic cup medals, and has been a member of England's squad at the Women's World Cup in France, making three appearances.

Duggan's destination is not yet known, with representatives for the player saying her next club would be "announced in due course".

The 27-year-old has also played for Everton in the Women's Super League.

Duggan said: "It was a dream come true to wear the famous colours of FC Barcelona. To represent one of the biggest and most special clubs in the world has been a huge honour – but I feel the time is right for me to pursue a new challenge.

"Together with my team-mates and, of course, the wonderful supporters, I was able to win two trophies and enjoy many other memorable moments. A great many people have helped me over the last two years and I want to thank them all – you will always be in my heart."

Karen Carney will bring her playing career to an end when England face Sweden in Saturday's Women's World Cup third-place game - and says she has given "heart and soul" to the Lionesses.

Since making her senior international debut as a 17-year-old in 2005, Carney went on to become a key member of the England squad, playing in four World Cups and winning 143 caps.

The silky-skilled Chelsea midfielder, who can play on either flank or in an advanced central role, announced on Friday she will retire from club and national team duty at the end of England's stay in France.

She had hoped to sign off as a World Cup winner, but defeat to the United States in the semi-finals means England will play for bronze.

Carney has started all of England's games at France 2019 on the bench, making three substitute appearances.

She accepts she is no longer the force she once was, and the retirement announcement had been on the 31-year-old's mind for some time.

"I've probably known for quite a while now," Carney said. "My mind still wants to do everything and it still can, but I don't think my body can anymore.

"My mind would want to continue until I was 100, but at some point your body tells you enough is enough and I think I've got to that point. I feel I've given my heart and soul for the clubs I've played for, and especially my country.

"I don't think there's anything more I could physically or mentally give and I don't have any regrets with how that has happened.

"I think probably a career highlight would be when I told my mum when I was 11 that I would play for England, and then at 17 doing it."

Carney also played for Arsenal, Birmingham and Chicago Red Stars, as well as Great Britain at London 2012, and said: "It's really weird, I think the thing I'll miss most is singing the anthem, that'll be tough."

England boss Phil Neville did not pick Carney in his early squads after being appointed last year, as she was injured.

"Then I was on holiday when I got a text from one of my players. It was Karen, saying, 'I'm going to go to the World Cup, watch this space', type thing," Neville said. "I thought, 'I quite like that, quite cheeky'.

"To give an example of what kind of professional Karen is ... we have the option of some players going to training early.

"We call it individual development plans and there was only one player that went early yesterday and that was Karen Carney.

"A player that was two days away from kicking her last ball actually still went down to the pitch to practise her skill before everybody else got there."

Lindsey Horan sent an apologetic message to Steph Houghton for her over-zealous celebrations following the United States' victory over England.

Houghton saw a controversial late penalty saved by Alyssa Naeher in Tuesday's Women's World Cup semi-final, as USA held firm to secure a 2-1 win.

England captain Houghton cut short a post-match interview with TalkSPORT in the wake of the result, when Horan, who set up Alex Morgan's winner, celebrated loudly in the vicinity.

Horan's actions were labelled "disrespectful" by Houghton, while Morgan has also come under fire for her 'tea sipping' celebration during the match.

But Horan claimed she did not mean to rile Houghton and explained she was fully focused on celebrating with Naeher following her crucial save.

"I sent a message to her apologising because I had no intentions of [showing disrespect]," Horan told Sky Sports on Friday.

"Obviously emotions arise after a game and I was so excited for Alyssa because it was the biggest save of her life. She's so humble and so down to Earth, I just wanted to rile her up again because it was an absolutely amazing night.

"I had no idea what was around me and I had no intentions of doing that. Hopefully Steph knows that. But obviously emotions are there after winning a semi-final."

England bring their tournament to a close with a third-place play-off against Sweden on Saturday, while holders USA face European champions Netherlands in Sunday's final.

Alex Morgan has accused her goal celebration critics of "double standards", with the United States striker perplexed at why her tea sipping caused such a stir when men are "grabbing their sacks".

USA captain Morgan celebrated scoring a Women's World Cup semi-final winner against England by lifting her little finger and pretending to sip tea, a popular beverage in the country of her opponents and one linked to American independence after a shipment of the drink was dumped in the sea by colonists in an event known as the Boston Tea Party.

She was called "distasteful" and "disrespectful" by her former Orlando Pride team-mate and England international Lianne Sanderson, who is working at the tournament as a pundit for beIN SPORTS, while television presenter Piers Morgan said her celebration was "bordering on a declaration of war".

Yet the forward hit back on Friday, saying it was not a shot at England and suggesting that those lamenting her were sexist given the lack of comparative uproar over Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Simeone's crotch-grabbing celebrations in last year's Champions League, which did result in fines for both.

"My celebration was actually more about, 'That's the tea', which is telling a story, spreading news," Morgan said.

"Sophie Turner does it quite often, she's one of my favourite actresses, so it wasn't a hit to England in any way.

"I feel that there is some sort of double standard for females in sports to feel like we have to be humble in our successes and have to celebrate, but not too much, and have to do something but it always has to be in a limited fashion.

"You see men celebrating all around the world in big tournaments, grabbing their sacks or whatever it is, and when I look at sipping a cup of tea, I'm a little taken aback. You have to laugh about it to see all of the criticism."

Morgan was particularly unimpressed with Juventus forward Sanderson's opinion, given they played together in 2016.

"I'm a little disappointed in that and obviously we were team-mates at Orlando Pride so I have the utmost respect for Lianne and all of my team-mates that I've ever played with," Morgan added.

"So, it's a little disappointing to see that."

USA face Netherlands in Sunday's World Cup final and, should Morgan add to her six goals at the tournament, the celebrations are unlikely to be muted.

"I don't think we'll be deterred by a couple of naysayers," she added.

Karen Carney will call time on her playing career following England's third-place play-off against Sweden in the Women's World Cup.

Carney has featured in three of England's World Cup matches in France, although she is yet to start heading into the Lionesses' final match.

And the 31-year-old playmaker, who scored one goal in 14 WSL matches for Chelsea last term, has now confirmed she will be retiring following Saturday's match in Nice.

"I am incredibly proud to have achieved so much in the game but now is definitely the right time to retire," Carney, who won 143 full international caps and scored 32 goals, said in a statement released via the Football Association's official website.

"To have played for England was my ultimate ambition and to do so at four World Cups and represent Team GB at a home Olympics was beyond the wildest dreams I had when first starting out.

"I'd like to thank everyone who has made this all possible, from my family and friends, everyone I have played for and worked with and, of course, the England squad and staff. I owe everything I have to all of them."

Having started at Birmingham City - where she returned later in her career - Carney also enjoyed spells at Arsenal and Chicago Red Stars.

England coach Phil Neville said: "Karen deserves all the plaudits that will come her way.

"It's been a privilege to work with her over the past 18 months but even more special has been the chance to get to know someone who is an incredible person and a special team-mate.

"While she will not want a fuss, Karen is someone who deserves total recognition and respect as a true legend of the game."

England will get over their semi-final stumbles and win a major tournament soon, according to defender Lucy Bronze.

The Lionesses were knocked out at the last-four stage for the third successive international competition on Tuesday in Lyon as the United States claimed a 2-1 win to reach the Women's World Cup final.

While Jill Ellis' team are preparing for a third-straight World Cup final, England are reflecting on a trio of near misses, having also lost semi-finals at Euro 2017 and on the global stage four years ago.

"Of course it's a disappointment - we wanted to win this World Cup, we came here to win this World Cup," Bronze said.

"We've fallen short, we wanted to make it to the final because we haven't quite made it there, but the fact that we are consistently reaching semi-finals shows how immense this team is and the strengths of this team.

"Now we've got a tournament [2020 Olympics] as Team GB next year and then we've got a home Euros.

"There's so much ahead of us and we can really push on, and I know for a fact that this team is going to win a trophy at some point."

Despite falling behind to Christen Press' early goal, and then trailing at the break when Alex Morgan made it 2-1, England came close to a second equaliser against USA.

Ellen White, who had scored the Lionesses' first, had a second strike ruled out for offside by VAR and Steph Houghton had a late chance from the penalty spot after another VAR intervention.

England skipper Houghton's penalty was saved by Alyssa Naeher, the third time in the tournament that Phil Neville's team had failed to convert from 12 yards after Nikita Parris had efforts stopped against Argentina and Norway.

"I think we're too harsh on the penalty takers sometimes," Bronze argued.

"It's a lot of pressure on a goalkeeper to pull out a save in the semi-final of a World Cup. To keep their team on top... that's unbelievable. The Argentina keeper - unbelievable save. The same for Norway, the keeper's made a fantastic save.

"It's a ridiculous comment to say the penalties aren't good enough. We've scored penalties this tournament and we've scored them in the past. I don't think that's an issue at all."

Megan Rapinoe has leapt to Alex Morgan's defence after the United States captain was accused of being "disrespectful" for her tea-sipping celebration in the Women's World Cup semi-final win over England.

Morgan headed in her sixth goal of the tournament in Lyon on Tuesday to seal a 2-1 victory for USA, who advanced to a third-straight final, and she celebrated the winner by pretending to drink tea with her little finger raised.

Some construed that as a shot fired at her opponents given the beverage's popularity in Britain, with England forward Lianne Sanderson, who is working as a pundit for beIN SPORTS at the tournament, calling it "distasteful" and "disrespectful", and television presenter Piers Morgan saying it was "bordering on a declaration of war".

USA players had also come under fire for their goal celebrations in a 13-0 win over Thailand earlier in the tournament, long after the game had already been won, and Rapinoe appeared sick of the latest round of criticism.

"Wah-wah-wah. I mean, it's like, we're at the World Cup – what do you want us to do?" Rapinoe said.

"This is the biggest stage, the biggest moment. I don't think anyone truly believes that we disrespect the game or disrespect our opponents. We have the utmost respect for England and every team that we've faced and every team that we will face forever and ever, that's just part of the DNA of this squad.

"With that said, we work hard, we like to play hard and we like to have fun and enjoy ourselves, and these are the absolute biggest moments to do that."

Rapinoe was one of three players conducting interviews on Wednesday when Jill Ellis' squad were leaving their hotel, with Morgan curiously spotted hot drink in hand as she walked past the cameras to the team bus.

Despite the storm in a teacup that has followed, Morgan had suggested the pose Rapinoe pulled after her first goal in the quarter-final win over France was the best celebration of the tournament.

"I think I might have been upstaged," Rapinoe said when asked about that comment.

"That was next level from Alex. Maybe we will have to do it at the same time and we'll duke it out!"

Megan Rapinoe handed the United States a fitness boost by training the morning after she missed their Women's World Cup semi-final win over England.

The 33-year-old forward, who has scored five times in France, missed Tuesday's 2-1 victory over the Lionesses in Lyon with a "slight" hamstring strain.

Rapinoe said after the game she expected to be fit to feature in Sunday's final – when USA will face either Netherlands or Sweden – and there was an encouraging sign on Wednesday as she trained with those members of Jill Ellis' squad who did not start on Tuesday.

In the session open to the media, Rapinoe was involved in both the stretching and jogging exercises having only watched on while the rest of USA's squad warmed up before their game on Tuesday.

Lucy Bronze was just four when brother Jorge picked up a pair of scissors and hacked away at her hair, clump after clump.

A salvage job at the local hairdresser later, and a satisfied Bronze, whose mother's refusal to chop her locks made her turn to six-year-old Jorge, was left with a boyish cut.

It was just the job for sidling in unnoticed alongside the young lads booting a football around near the family home on the Northumberland island of Lindisfarne.

Yet little Lucia Roberta Tough Bronze was soon running rings around those boys, taking the first steps towards starring for England on the World Cup stage.

Today the 27-year-old is "the best player in the world" according to Lionesses manager Phil Neville, and amid England's dazzling run in France she became one of the faces of the British sporting summer.

Jorge wrote a heartfelt letter to his sister as she departed for France, complete with a teasing "Don't be s***" sign-off, and was roaring her on from the stands against the United States in Lyon.

For the Bronze family, it was another night to be proud. There have been many of those with more to come.

The World Cup dream is over for England after the heartbreaking semi-final defeat to the United States, but trophy success on home soil at Euro 2021 is a realistic goal. Bronze, devastated by Tuesday's loss, could land gold next summer too with Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympics.

Parents Diane and Joaquim, unlike so many living within striking distance of Newcastle, had no interest in football until little Lucy began to demonstrate prodigious talent.

The family moved to the mainland and Bronze shone for Alnwick Town's mixed junior team. Sunderland's youth ranks beckoned, then the first team, then Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Lyon and the Lionesses.

Like many an ambitious youngster, Bronze had been wary about sharing her life's dreams with her careers adviser. Not least because mum Diane held that role at the Duchess' Community High School in Alnwick, as well as being a maths teacher - and she saw football as little more than a hobby.

But being up front about her desire had positive consequences. Bronze, aged 17, secured a scholarship to the University of North Carolina that became a key stepping stone in her life.

"I'm very independent and was quite mature for my age," she said of her move to Chapel Hill. "My parents were a bit scared.

"Moving out and living on my own was a big thing but to be in a different country with different coaches and a different mentality changed me as a person, as a player, the way I think about things and the way I see people."

Bronze was still in the womb when she first set tongues wagging.

The Bronzes had moved to Lindisfarne, home to fewer than 200 people, after a death in the family, and the pending arrival of Lucy in the autumn of 1991 put them in a quandary.

The mile-long causeway from the north-east coast to the island is impassable for around 12 hours every day, and local midwives were bursting with enthusiasm about the prospect of taking a helicopter across to help out Mrs Bronze - who was having none of it.

"So I was actually born in Berwick because my mum went there early," Bronze said. "She refused to give birth on this tiny island with no hospital and no doctors, and the potential of there not being a road there depending on tides."

Bronze became no stranger to doctors, needing four knee operations in the early years of her top-flight career.

She lost out on vital appearance money and paid herself through university in Leeds by taking jobs at the Domino's pizza shop in Headingley, and behind the bar at the nearby Goals five-a-side centre. She ate enough margherita to horrify any football club dietician.

Such indulgences are rare nowadays. Bronze has become not merely a goalscoring playmaker at right-back but a remarkable athlete, said to be bringing in a handsome six-figure salary at Lyon.

To watch her doing laps of the pitch at England's St George's Park headquarters, it is no stretch to imagine Bronze running a Sally Gunnell-like leg in a championship 4 x 400 metres relay.

She can afford a sharp haircut too, sparing Jorge any more blunt-scissored efforts. And the days of trying to merely keep up with the boys? Long gone.

Sport historians will record whether this has been a golden era for English women's football, or whether the prosperity will endure. They might well define these years as the second Bronze age.

The United States may have beaten England to return to the Women's World Cup final, but Phil Neville is adamant his Lionesses will eventually bridge the gap.

England suffered a third successive semi-final defeat at a major tournament as Jill Ellis' defending champions claimed a 2-1 victory in Lyon even without an injured Megan Rapinoe to reach their third straight final.

Rapinoe's replacement, Christen Press, headed in the first and though Ellen White equalised for the Lionesses, Alex Morgan scored what proved to be the winner as Steph Houghton had a late penalty saved by USA goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.

USA can now move into England's hotel, with members of their backroom team having controversially done so before the semi-final, but Neville warned that they will not remain on their perch forever having seen how his old club Manchester United have struggled since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.

"They can now have our hotel," Neville joked.

"They're the standard-bearers. I played for a football club that won a lot in a long space of time. We were the ones that everyone wanted to catch.

"Eventually teams caught Man United and eventually we will catch USA. At the moment they're the best team because of that winning mentality.

"We will get there, we are closing the gap.

"We've got to keep investing in the pathway, driving standards within our leagues and young players. We've got to keep having sustained success and keep building the momentum that we've got.

"America have got that winning mentality of knowing what it means to win. We will get that, we're learning that, developing that, coaching that every single day. 

"It doesn't happen overnight, it takes time. We will get there."

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