Heart ache for England

Croatia end the nation’s World Cup hopes

Croatia 2 – 1 England

For forty-five minutes it all looked so good. Croatia were on the back foot and England looked hungry. The pace of England’s counter and their direct approach was causing problems in abundance for the Croatians.

Trippier’s free kick was outstanding and for a large part of the first half, Croatia looked shell shocked by England’s tempo.

Then came the second half step up from England’s opponents. For the rest of the game Southgate’s men were chasing shadows.

There are many positives to take from this run to the semi finals. Southgate’s men have reengaged the nation in to a love of football, they deserve credit for getting this far. Ultimately though they lacked the true quality to get past a top class opponents.

Quality Croatia

The second half display from Croatia was excellent. Engaging their superior experience and making the most of their best players, Zlatko Dalic’s men left England behind.

Not only did they stretch the play but they used the ball brilliantly. England were left chasing and using up valuable energy, their pace nullified and ineffective.

Modric, Rakitic and Brozovic slowly killed off England’s chances, it was death by a thousand passes.

Not enough quality

England for all their hard work looked bereft of quality. They struggled to get on the ball and create anything from open play.

Their policy of leaving Henderson exposed to isolation has never felt right. Against a better team is was brutally exposed. He was overrun for most of the game and the decision to sub him was baffling.

Ali and Lingard worked hard but lacked composure with the all important final ball. The back four did well but switched off for Mandzukic’s winner. They also allowed Croatia far too much room our wide as they were often defending on their six yard line.

Missed chance

This World Cup really opened up for England. It looked as though they had a great chance to make it to a first final in fifty-two years. The big boys continued to fall and England were gathering momentum.

The fans dared to believe tonight, but the players looked daunted. Perhaps their lack of big game experience finally caught up with them.

Ultimately this will feel like a huge opportunity missed for Southgate’s men. They gave it a great go, Kane, Pickford, Stones and Trippier to name but four, really caught the eye. Southgate was composure personified throughout and seems a really good fit for the future.

It will take a while for this not to hurt many of the fans, but great strides have been made. They must learn from this for Euro 2020, where England will hope to go one better.

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