Millie Bright column: 'The players are still hurting, but that will be our motivation'

Millie Bright
England v Sweden
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Chelsea and England defender Millie Bright will be writing columns for the BBC Sport website during the Women's World Cup in France.

The dressing room was a quiet and lonely place after I was sent off during our World Cup semi-final defeat by the United States, but my immediate feeling was anger.

Sitting there, watching the remainder of a dramatic game on a TV with one of our physios, I just kept replaying the moment over and over again in my head.

For me, it was a harsh sending off and you start questioning everything that has happened and how it relates to other incidents. But it wasn't long before I was back out on the pitch hugging my team-mates.

On those occasions, words aren't necessary. It was heartbreaking for all of us.

You just want people there for you and I know that they had my back 100%. I can accept the second yellow card, but the first one was undeserved and now it means I won't be able to play in Saturday's third-place play-off against Sweden.

That's the toughest part because I wanted to finish the tournament on a high and make amends after the heartbreak of losing to the USA.

But we have to move on and I still have a role to play by supporting the team, training hard and being a motivator as the team chases a second consecutive World Cup bronze medal.

Many of the players are still hurting, but that will provide our motivation.

Millie Bright was dismissed in the 86th minute for a second bookable offence
Millie Bright was dismissed in the 86th minute for a second bookable offence against the United States

Why I think my red card was harsh

When you're sitting up in bed until 4am you have plenty of time to reflect, questioning why you've been sent off and why we've been knocked out of the World Cup.

You get to a stage where you replay every scenario in your head but you have to stop, otherwise you drive yourself insane.

Looking back, though, both my yellow cards were in challenges with Alex Morgan and I want to explain my side of things.

The first foul for which I was cautioned came when we raced for the ball and my hand came up. The foul was unintentional and it was my first of the game, so I was surprised. Other players had received a warning before they were booked.

For the second yellow, I will take it on the chin. I've not watched it back but I think I got some of the ball and the referee disagreed with it.

Sometimes you just have to accept the decision, although I saw it as a strong challenge with no malice intended whatsoever.

People that know me realise what kind of player I am. I'm a front-foot defender, I like a tackle but I'm not malicious and I don't go in to hurt.

That is not the kind of person I am.

If I deserved to be sent off, I would have held my hands up and said to my team-mates: 'Sorry I messed up.' But I know that's not the case and I know they believe that as well.

In many ways, it just wasn't our night and the margins were so fine. That's the cruelness of football and you don't always get what you think you deserve.

Bright is consoled by room-mate Rachel Daly after the final whistle
Bright is consoled by room-mate Rachel Daly after the final whistle

Whatever happens on Saturday, the journey never ends

I said before the semi-final that I think we are equal to the United States, and despite the result I haven't changed my mind.

It's strange, because we had only conceded once in the whole tournament beforehand and yet we conceded two sloppy goals against the USA. We have also been ruthless, but we were denied by a very close offside and a missed penalty.

Those are the fine margins that decide games, but on another day I think we could have won.

All that means we didn't reach our goal of winning the World Cup or even getting to the final. The heartbreaking thing is thinking about all the hard work and effort we've put in over the last two years and in one game it gets taken away from you.

However, when the dust settles, a third consecutive semi-final shows how consistent we have been for four years and we will keep knocking on the door.

It will take time for the wounds to heal, but we have to park that for now and focus on Saturday.

I hadn't played for England when we won bronze in 2015 and there are 10 others like me in the squad who have made their World Cup debuts this year, so the desire to win is huge.

Even those who achieved third place four years ago are motivated and they've been spelling out how important it is to return home with a World Cup medal.

Every medal is an achievement, and while it's one of the hardest games to play in based on picking yourself up mentally, I know the girls will go out and smash it.

We have also been driven by the huge interest back home. Even though we have been living in a bubble for five weeks, the record TV audiences show that people have been enjoying the type of football we are playing and enjoying our journey.

It's incredible how many stories I've heard of people saying they are watching despite not normally following football.

Whether it's next year's Olympics, Euro 2021 or the next World Cup, we have to keep building on what we've achieved and the journey never ends.

Millie Bright was talking to BBC Sport's Alistair Magowan.

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