The slogan ‘It’s coming home’ took a sad turn as England bowed out of the FIFA World Cup 2018 after a 2-1 loss against Croatia in the semi-final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
As Croatia players and fans celebrated their way, their counterparts were left stunned as tears rolled out quite vividly. Now the focus lies on, where do England go from here on under Gareth Southgate?
England was also comprehensively beaten by Belgium for the third-place play-off, as they finished fourth in Russia. Some may feel that the England side never managed to beat the biggies, well the rest are just celebrating their last-four finish. After a disastrous last two campaigns, it doesn’t matter how they got to the last four.
The Three Lions were determined to book a rare final at the World Cup after 52 years, but now it seems the wait will continue. The spectacle is something they would have liked in the final against a suave French side, but Croatia reached at their expense. France ran out 4-2 winners against the spirited Croats on Sunday to lift the coveted trophy after 20 years.
After 1990, this was the first time England entered the semis. And that’s why they had all the attention and many believed that this could be the time when they banish the knock-out pain. It wasn’t meant to be.
The focus is on the semis against Croatia, when Kieran Trippier scored a screamer from a free-kick. Until half-time they dominated the game, but led by Ivan Perisic, Croatia staged a comeback. In the second half of extra-time, Mario Mandzukic scored the winner to knock England out.
But one can see this present England team make a real name for themselves under manager Gareth Southgate.
England win hearts, but miss out on the title
England won hearts with their performances, in Russia, over the last few weeks. England’s modest approach should be lauded. This squad led by Harry Kane definitely managed to restore the pride of the Three Lions.
This team had the firepower to go all the way and even win the title, but they faltered. Unfortunately, their play-making was missing in the second half against Croatia.
Perhaps one could have sensed that it was the desire of the players to somewhat protect the 1-0 lead, and in doing that, Croatia came strongly at them. This English side will be remembered for breaking the penalty shoot-out jinx in the round of 16 and also qualifying for the last four. But when it comes to the main prize, England will know they had a shot but missed the chance.
Southgate a fantastic coach
Perhaps the most modest and humble – Southgate has been a revelation in the two years he has been in the job. He took England from the embarrassment of Euro 2016 to their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years. That itself tells a story.
The manager has the total respect and loyalty of his squad, who responded to his words well throughout. Off the field too, he has been very professional and progressive. The conduct of the players in Russia has won so many admirers and one can feel the personality of them be in a positive light.
If the 2014 World Cup was a disaster, the 2016 Euro was more horrible. Southgate brought something worthwhile and got the fans believing in the team once again, That was missing all these years.
England’s reputation has taken a positive stride and what Southgate helped the side achieve can be considered as a success in Russia.
Where do Southgate go from here?
Not all is lost for England. Southgate has shown that he can get this team to do well in the near future. This young English side can reach their true potential but for that to happen, Southgate needs to be in the thick of the action. Majority of the England players are yet to reach their peak and Southgate can get them to shine.
Southgate needs his players to move on from this loss and start preparing for the European Championship in 2020.
Several players will retain their spot and the idea should be to learn from what went wrong and adapt tactically. If England can do well in the Euro 2020, then they might enter the 2022 World Cup as one of the pre-tournament favourites.
Team to revolve around Kane
Harry Kane showed his prowess in key moments in the tourney and is likely to win the Golden Boot. Choosing Kane as the captain was one of the best decisions by Southgate. He can now build the side further around the Tottenham Hotspur forward and get the team play some exciting brand of football.
Further, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was the star of this side. The Everton man may have raised doubts over his starting place, but with time he signified the trust his manager put into him. Pickford is a young talent and needs to be nurtured and groomed well. In the youngster, England can be assured of a trusted figure for many years to come.
Moreover, the defence showed character especially with John Stones and Harry Maguire marshalling the central areas. Kieran Trippier was superb. All these players are young and the manager can get the best out of them to give them the platform to build on. The manager had stated that England is a work in progress and rightly so. We expect this young side to scale great heights!