A spirited final ten minutes enabled England's women's team to snatch a 1-1 draw against hosts Spain in Madrid yesterday but the point was not enough to book a World Cup semi-final place, which instead went to their opponents.
Trailing to Monserrat Cruz's ninth-minute goal, England - knowing that only a win would put them into the last four - stepped up the pressure late in the match and equalised from Mel Clewlow's penalty corner.
However, they could not force a winner and go into the play-offs for fifth to eighth places where they will first face Japan tomorrow.
England, with captain Kate Walsh returning after missing two matches because of a knee injury, started poorly when Cruz pounced on a rebound off goalkeeper Beth Storry to score from a tight angle.
A diving Rachel Walker just failed to deflect a long pass out of midfield in the 22nd minute before, from their first penalty corner five minutes later, Clewlow drilled inches wide of the post.
Helen Grant missed a great chance to equalise in the 55th minute when she failed to touch a bobbling ball which came through the circle to her five yards out.
Four minutes later Grant had the ball in the net after breaking through two tackles in the middle of the D - but her effort was disallowed for an infringement.
Sally Walton produced a neat turn and shot which was comfortably saved by Maria Jesus Rosa, Spain's goalkeeper, but no one was on hand to score from the rebound.
Six minutes from time, England won another penalty corner - and Clewlow powered in a shot which squeezed between the legs of Rosa.
The Spanish keeper smothered a Clewlow set-piece two minutes later - and although another corner was awarded, Walsh fluffed the push-out and the chance was lost.
Danny Kerry, the England coach, was disappointed with the result and how Spain frustrated England from the start.
He said: "This is probably one of the lowest points of my life.
"I'm very upset and I can't describe the frustration the players, the coaching and management team feel.
"People who are not involved in top-level sport will not understand how low we feel.
"We struggled to break Spain down - we don't have the skill sets yet to unlock teams who are unwilling to play hockey and that is pretty much why we have a lot of pressure but don't turn teams over yet.
"Picking up the players after this will really define everything about us."