England suffered defeat in their opening group match but bounced back to qualify for the knockout stages and defeated hosts Canada to reach the semi-finals.
A “horrendous” late own-goal by Laura Bassett denied Mark Sampson’s side a place in the final, but victory over Germany in Saturday’s bronze medal match ended a run of 18 defeats and two draws over the world’s No 1 team.
“What a feeling,” Houghton told Sky Sports News HQ. “It’s been an emotional rollercoaster over the last two days.
“I’m just so glad to have this around my neck,” added the England and Manchester City skipper referring to her bronze medal. “Credit to all the girls and credit to all the staff because we dug deep against a very good German team.
“I think you’ve seen the best performance by an English team for a long, long time and I think we deserved that today. It showed how together we are as a team, but what a reason to wear the England shirt, I’m absolutely delighted.
“As a captain, to be able to captain this team and lead this team out over the course of this tournament has been a dream come true and memories that I will hold for ever but these girls make this job easy and the support that I’ve got from the staff it makes it natural and by far the best moment of my England career.
“We’ve got so much talent in this squad, it’s all about hard work and showing character.
“I think as the tournament progressed we definitely did believed we could go and win this World Cup and to come away as bronze medallists, I don’t think anyone thought that back home and hopefully we’ve made the whole nation proud of us.”
Houghton also paid credit to Sampson, who has led a regeneration of the squad since taking charge barley 18 months ago.
Success with England Women will mean Sampson has caught many an eye, but he signed a four-year contract with the Football Association in December 2013 and has shown no desire to go anywhere else.
Houghton hopes so: “We all want Mark to stay.
“It’s shown in this tournament what a great manager and coach he is, to be able to change our tactics from game to game and adjust our game plan depending on who we’ve been playing and give that element of surprise to the opposition.
“On a personal note he’s believed in me as a player and as a captain, as well as the rest of the girls, and we want him to stay and hopefully he will.”
Birmingham and England striker Karen Carney was happy to help put a smile back on the face of Bassett following Wednesday’s painful defeat to Japan.
Carney said: “It’s just amazing for football in general, I think England and Germany have had a rivalry for 25 years now and to kind of eradicate that stigma and to put a smile on many people’s faces, including that girl Laura Bassett down there, the team have done so well.
“We were obviously heartbroken but now to get that medal… ecstatic, amazing.”
Fellow forward Toni Duggan believes the future is bright for the Lionesses.
She said: “Coming into this tournament no one had us up there with the top nations, everyone wrote us off but our belief in camp has been the same from day one.
“We know how far we can go, we’ve got the ability, a lot of youngsters too, so it bodes well for the future and we’ve got a great belief and a great team spirit and we just need to keep that going.”
Asked how much she would enjoy the win over Germany, Duggan added: “I’m going to love it, party, party, party tonight.”