When the whistle came after extra time, for so many England fans it was déjà vu. The dream ended as so many England dreams have ended – with a cruel exit via a penalty shoot-out.
The loss was especially bitter for captain Faye White, who at the age of 33 may have missed her last opportunity to play in a World Cup semi-final when her spot-kick hit the bar.
The Arsenal defender stepped up when England had to score to stay in contention after France eventually pulled level through Eugenie Le Sommer.
England had taken an early advantage when keeper Karen Bardsley saved Camille Abily’s first penalty for France. Kelly Smith, Karen Carney and Casey Stoney all scored before Claire Rafferty shot wide and White hit the woodwork.
After the game, team manager Hope Powell paid tribute to White, who was left inconsolable after her miss.
“I’m very proud of the fact that she had the guts and the nerve to try and get England into a semi-final and I think she should feel very proud,” Powell said.
“She’s obviously desperately upset. But it went to the wire, that’s football, what can you do? “She has had a magnificent career. She has dealt with adversity tremendously. She is a magnificent leader. I have nothing but admiration for her.”