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Opinion

England – Don’t look back in anger…

9 months ago
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Well we had a blast.

England achieved a lot in these past four weeks but ultimately came up just short.

However, the first semi-final since Euro 96 is some achievement.

I have never been convinced that this is a great manager or team but they have come together in this tournament and done their very best, the players certainly giving 100% for Gareth Southgate and the fans.

England did get a big helping hand with how the knockout stages panned out, a route of Colombia, Sweden and Croatia to get to the final was the stuff of dreams., especially with only having needed to beat Tunisia and Panama to get out of the group stage.

However, you only need to look back two years ago and the dismal failure against Iceland, to be reminded of how often England haven’t taken advantage of favourable situations.

Southgate didn’t turn this good to average team (Kane apart) into superstars but he definitely got his tactics right in getting them on the front foot from the first whistle.

They dominated Tunisia early on and should have easily won, they blew away Panama, Belgium was a dead rubber, then Colombia they could have had the game won by half-time, whilst Sweden they looked so comfortable from start to finish.

I thought Colombia was very similar to last night, once again England were on top from the start and could and should have been three up by half-time, but failed to take chances after Trippier’s class opener in the fifth minute.

When talisman Harry Kane hit the post rather than the gaping net from a few yards, that was the moment it slipped away.

Just like against Colombia, once Croatia got on top in the second-half, Gareth Southgate and his players didn’t have any answers and massively lacked ideas/creativity.

Having conceded in every game apart from Sweden, it was no surprise when Croatia punished England for their missed chances, Perisic on 68 minutes.

From some way out it then became clear that penalties was probably England’s best chance, only for Mandzukic to kill those hopes off with 11 minutes to go.

We had carried the luck and the bottle against Colombia to get through extra time and penalties but that luck ran out last night.

It was a vivid reminder that this is a cup competition, England failed to take their chances when on top, going two up would have killed it and we’d now be planning what time to go to the pub on Sunday.

This World Cup has been brilliant and England have played a large part in that for those of us who were rooting for them. A great summer of beer and football is now coming to an end in three days time and the spell will be broken.

Back to normal life, work and worrying about Newcastle United.

Gareth Southgate:

“At the moment we all feel the pain of defeat.

“I don’t think realistically we expected to be here, but once you’re here and played as well as we did, you want to take those opportunities in life. The dressing room is a difficult place at the moment.

“I’m remarkably proud of the group of players, the reaction of the supporters compared to two years ago shows the country are proud of the way we played.

“There will in time be lots of positives to take but it’s too hard and too soon to put that in context.

“You have to suffer the result first sometimes.

“I’m hugely proud of what we’ve done,  I couldn’t have asked for any more.

“They’ve broken through a number of barriers in the past weeks.”
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