England’s World Cup dream is sadly over following Wednesday night’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of Croatia in Moscow.
Gareth Southgate’s side enjoyed a dream start, taking the lead in the fifth minute courtesy of a wonderful Kieran Trippier free-kick.
However, Ivan Perisic’s excellent finish with just over 20 minutes remaining forced the game to extra-time.
Croatia, having gone the distance in both of their previous two matches, were expected to tire once normal time was over. However, they grew in confidence following Perisic’s equaliser and it was England who began to look increasingly fatigued.
Then, in the 109th minute, a moment of lapse defending from England’s defenders allowed Mario Mandzukic to sweep the ball past Jordan Pickford for Croatia’s winning goal.
The Three Lions can be proud of their performance at this summer’s World Cup finals in Russia. They exceeded all expectations and made everybody back home immensely proud.
However, due to the fact they took the lead and because this wasn’t a Brazil or a Germany they were facing in the semi-finals, there will always be a question of ‘what if…’ about this tournament.
Croatia's players felt England underestimated them
Croatia, on the other hand, now have a golden opportunity to win their first ever World Cup.
Some of their players believe they were underestimated by English football fans the media alike in the build-up to the semi-final and, in fairness, they might have a point.
Many people in England assumed Southgate’s men would comfortably brush Croatia to one side before taking on France in Sunday’s final.
However, Croatia right-back Sime Vrsaljko dropped the brutal truth on England after the match.
Vrsaljko drops brutal truth on England
“'The all-round perception was that this is a new-look England who have changed their ways of punting long balls up field but when we pressed them it turned out that they haven’t,” the Atletico Madrid defender was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
Ouch. Was there any real need for that, Sime?
He then added, per The Times’ Joseph Cassinelli: “My motto has always been 'do your talking on the pitch.' We're in the final and they can now go sunbathing if they wish.”
Again, a bit unnecessary, really. Rather than celebrating reaching the World Cup final, he’s firing shots at England.
Perhaps he has a point about England resorting to long ball up field when Croatia pressed them, but Southgate’s players can still be hugely proud of what they’ve achieved this summer.