Fans miss out on welcoming Lionesses as World Cup squad lands back in UK

'We just wanted to welcome our heroes home': Fans were left 'gutted' when the Lionesses did not appear at the Heathrow arrivals lounge

The Lionesses have landed back in the UK after their World Cup final defeat as fans gathered at the airport in the hopes of welcoming them home.

Around 40 people brought England flags and handmade banners to Heathrow Airport on Tuesday morning, with one group having arrived last night, but the team are understood to have left via a private exit after touching down just after 6.30am.

Others brought flowers for head coach Sarina Wiegman, while placards featured messages saying ‘you all made us proud’ and ‘can we have two t-shirts please?’.

Hopes were raised when Alex Scott was spotted walking through arrivals, with fans saying she hinted the team would follow, and the crowd burst out into chants of ‘Sweet Caroline’.

The team’s bags with the squad logo were also carried through.

Hope turned to disappointment when it was later confirmed by airport staff that the Lionesses had left the airport and the crowd soon dispersed.

A small number of fans watched at arrivals for a little longer just to be sure they had not missed out on any action.

Joanne Bruce, 51, travelled from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire to the airport at 10.30pm last night with her niece and sister in the hope of thanking the team for their tournament performance.

She said: “We haven’t slept, we have just laughed and joked.

“It was just the three of us to start with. My sister was like ‘I really want to go early’.”

When asked if there any other fans were at the airport then she replied: “No, no, no. They didn’t come until about four o’clock this morning.

“We have now got a car parking ticket of £70-80, maybe more.

“I was very, very disappointed (about the final result). Seeing Millie with tears in her eyes, it just bought tears to my eyes. I really felt for them as well.

“They have definitely done us proud, to get as far as they have.”

Football Association (FA) sources say it is standard practice for both the women’s and men’s team not to pass through arrivals after disembarking from flights.

Heathrow had been told on Sunday to warn fans against making the trip for this reason, they added.

Former England caption Faye White, who played 90 times for England, says the lack of preparation for the women's team's welcome party is a problem.

Women's football is about the trophies and the success - but it's also about inspiring young girls, Faye White said

Since arriving back home, a number of Lionesses have posted on social media reflecting on the tournament.

Alessia Russo posted a picture of the Lionesses clapping, along with the caption: "Heartbroken that it wasn't meant to be but so proud and grateful to be a part of this special team. There is nobody else I would want to be on this journey with".

She thanked fans that supported the team from near and afar, and said they were made to feel very welcome in Australia.

A number of the Lionesses took to social media Credit: Instagram/Alessia Russo

"For now we rest up and recover but have absolutely no doubt this team will be back stronger than ever," she wrote.

Chloe Kelly and Millie Bright shared Instagram stories on Tuesday featuring their four-legged friends.

Chloe Kelly and Millie Bright shared Instagram stories on Tuesday after arriving home. Credit: Instagram: @chloekelly @mbrighty04

Kelly wrote: "Back with my two boys" alongside a picture of her cuddling her two dogs.

Bright, who turned 30 yesterday, shared a selfie with her new puppy, Elsa.

Goalkeeper Mary Earps shared a photo of her lifting the Golden Glove Award on Instagram, simply writing "grateful" in the caption.

Lauren James said her first major tournament was "filled with highs and lows" in an Instagram post.

"The ending wasn't what we wanted but always proud of this team. Thank you to the fans that supported us at home and in Australia. It means a lot.

"This group is special... we will learn, grow, build and go again. See you again soon!".

Olga Carmona thrown in the air by her teammates in Madrid. Credit: AP

Spain, meanwhile, celebrated as thousands of fans welcomed the newly crowned champions on Monday.

Olga Carmona, who scored the winning goal in the final against England, participated in the celebrations despite being told after the match that her father had died following an illness.

Her family decided to wait until the match was over to inform Carmona.

"Today is a very special day for the entire country, but it’s also a bit complicated for me,” Carmona told the fans who greeted the players a day after La Roja's 1-0 win over England in Australia.

Supporters take part during the Women's World Cup victory celebrations in Madrid. Credit: AP

She added: “Yesterday was a day of mixed emotions for me," she said. "At one point it was the best day of my life, but then it became the worst. I’m really moved to be able to offer this joy for the entire country.

"Now you have the star that you all wanted so much, and not only the one that we will carry on our chests, but also all the ones that are in the sky and that accompanied us.”

The team paraded on an open-air bus past some of Madrid's most iconic sites, dancing and waving to fans who lined up along the streets of the capital carrying Spain flags and wearing the nation's red-and-yellow colors.

ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott reports from Sydney and Reporter Ellie Pitt from Wembley as the Lionesses head back to England

An average of 13.3 million people tuned into the final on television, making it the country’s most-watched women’s football match of all time.

That figure was more than two million higher than the previous record set at the Euro 2022 final at Wembley.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for the squad to be given honours after their World Cup exploits.

The Spain team had already landed back in Madrid on Monday, where they paraded the trophy in front of thousands of fans.

England's Alex Greenwood leaves the team's hotel in Sydney. Credit: PA

Analysis by ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott

While they absorb yesterday's pain the Lionesses will be contemplating what might have been, not what lies ahead.

But when the smoke clears they'll realise that the Sydney final is a significant stepping stone. The majority of this squad will be available at the next World Cup, but with their experience here to lean on.

Their gift to the game is rising participation numbers and increased investment. Individually, they have the opportunity to exploit their growing popularity and add to the £150,000 FIFA gives each player as a runner-up.

What the Lionesses achieved here in Australia will live long in the memories. So, time perhaps to set aside tiresome comparisons with 1966 and celebrate them in their own right.

When the men won the World Cup women's football was still banned in England, just think about that.

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