Monday, 23 July, 2018

Fresh, confident and Southgate - the key words to describe England team

There were stories I knew wouldn’t be true’ – England boss Southgate on World Cup hosts Russia Fans in Moscow devastated after England knocked out by Croatia
Cassandra Castillo | 12 July, 2018, 19:42

The England squad have been dubbed heroes by the media on the morning after they crashed out of the World Cup semi-final, losing 2-1 to Croatia in extra time. "Extra time, I knew it was on the cards we weren't going to win that".

While going to 30 minutes of extra time in all three of their sudden death matches - not to mention emotional energy-sapping penalty shootouts in two - has proved beyond doubt Croatia's resilience, it has taken its toll.

Because of team eliminations and rotating lineups, some players have played in more matches than others. We're taking it step by step. We can at least defend two crosses.

England manager Gareth Southgate says he knew that the negative press about Russian Federation leading up to this summer's World Cup would not turn out to be true.

Croatia had twice needed penalties to get to this stage, first in the round of 16, where they beat Denmark, then in the quarterfinals, where they beat hosts Russian Federation, two shootouts that made goalkeeper Danijel Subašić a hero.

Asked about Saturday's match against Belgium, who beat England 1-0 in a somewhat meaningless group stage match on June 28, Southgate said: "The honest thing is it's not a game any team wants to play in". This shows character and is what makes me proud. For 70 minutes we battered them.

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"We had hoped [for this] and we believed in our team, but the feeling when we finally entered the finals can not be compared to anything", said Croatia fan Ivan Kecerin. We respected them because we analysed them.

"There was a period of the game in the second half where we didn't have that controlled possession, and the game became too end to end with us not building in the way we have been. During half-time, I told the players "calmly pass the ball, do not lose your heads". Croatia has never won it all but will finally get their shot on Sunday. Their route to the final in Russian Federation has included a 3-0 win against Argentina in the groups, with Croatia finishing top of the group.

The French have relied on the attacking brilliance of 19-year-old forward Kylian Mbappé while Croatia have depended on Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic to spearhead their attack.

"They played their best, it obviously wasn't to be".

"But regardless of that, I think the football across the board has been really exciting, really entertaining, and the hosting of the tournament and the cities that have hosted it has been outstanding".

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