Head coach Mark Sampson said his players deserve to be legends after achieving the best placed finish by an England team since the men’s side won the World Cup in 1966.
The Lionesses finished third at the Women’s World Cup in Canada afterbeating Germany for the first time.
“In my book, the players have always been legends,” he said.
“I hope now the rest of the world and the country marks them in their paper as legends of their country.”
England beat Germany 4-2 in the 1966 final at Wembley after Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick, and Sampson said his team had achieved similar moments as they secured a bronze medal – their most successful World Cup finish.
By beating European champions Germany 1-0 – thanks to Fara Williams’s extra-time penalty – they finished as the highest-ranked European nation in Canada, and ended a winless record against the world’s number one team that had spanned 20 matches and 31 years.
“It’s special to be talked about even in the same breath as the team from 1966,” added Sampson. “There are moments from that tournament back in ’66, the Hurst hat-trick, the Bobby Moore tackle, and the players will remembered forever for some of the moments in this tournament.
“Whether that be a clearance off the line, a save, a goal, a block, a tackle or a header, we hope that in 50-60 years this team is still spoken about for some of the special moments they have brought to the world over the course of this tournament.”
England’s first win over Germany came three days after Laura Bassett scored an injury-time own goal against Japan in the semi-finals.
And it is also seven months since the Lionesses lost 3-0 to Sylvia Neid’s Germany at Wembley.
Sampson, 32, said: “It was an incredible result for the team, we knew the challenge we faced, not only against a world-class German side but to bounce back from the blow of the semi-final.
“The performance speaks volumes of the players. I’m incredibly proud of them. To achieve the third place, to be the top European team in the tournament and finally beat Germany, is something the players will be remembered for.”
Italia 1990 anniversary
England’s first win over Germany came 25 years to the day since the men’s team were knocked out of the 1990 World Cup on penalties by Germany.
“This nation has had 25 years of hurt and more against Germany,” Sampson added. “It was about time that a team stepped up and found a way to start the ball facing in a different direction and the team did.”
Sampson also praised his side’s resilience so soon after they were denied a place in the final following Bassett’s own goal against Japan.
“We never used the words ‘third-fourth place play-off’, we didn’t feel it was befitting of this team in the way we played in this tournament. And we were playing the greatest nation in women’s football,” he said.
“Defeating Germany is an incredible result for the team, we knew the challenge we faced, not only against a world-class German team but to bounce back from the blow of the semi-final.
“It’s not so long ago that we came off after 45 minutes at Wembley by far the second best team against an excellent German side, but the team since that moment have learned an incredible amount and have been a special group to work with.”
‘We always had belief’
England goalscorer Williams, 31, told the BBC the squad always had faith in their ability.
“I am speechless,” said England’s record cap holder. “We had big hopes and big belief and our performance showed how together and how strong we are.”
“A new era”
Former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis on BBC Radio 5 live: “I could not be prouder for everything these girls have achieved. Previous teams never believed they could beat Germany but this team had the belief.
“They had all the characteristics – technically, tactically, physically and psychologically. It is a new era for women’s football.”
England and Everton striker Lindsay Johnson on BBC Three: “I felt we wanted it more than the Germans and we deserved it. I’m so happy the girls won and got the bronze medal.
“Throughout the tournament we have talked about how good the team spirit was. It is just fantastic scenes.”
Former England international Rachel Yankey on BBC Three: “I don’t think anyone believed they would go the full seven matches. They so nearly went to the final. It is amazing but these players believed. They created history.”
BBC Pundit Lucy Ward: “England have shocked the nation, they have shocked the world with their performances. It won’t be until they get home they will realise the effect they have had on the country. I really think this is the tipping point for women’s football in this country.”