All those oh, so nears and more for England at World Cup

Tyler Owen
July 13, 2018

Ivan Perisic levelled and Mario Mandzukic secured a 2-1 win in extra-time, propelling the country to a first World Cup final as England's manager wondered what could have been - 22 years on from his semi-final heartache at Euro 96. In extra time Danny Rose came on for Ashley Young and Eric Dier swapped with Jordan Henderson. "Two players played with half a leg, but it didn't show", coach Zlatko Dalic said. Meanwhile England have now lost two semifinals, 1990 and 2018 and it has been 52 years since they last played the final in 1966.

"But, certainly, I'm hugely proud of what they've done".

"My goal was important because it came at a time when we were dominating", the Inter Milan player said.

"We have to play as if this were the first game in this tournament".

Following the relatively stress-free 2-0 quarter-final win over Sweden and with no fresh injury worries or suspensions, the smart money would be on Southgate selecting the same XI for Wednesday's last-four tie with Croatia.

Given they arrived in Russian Federation as rank outsiders, however, Southgate was invited to detail the positives from a campaign that appears to have repaired the strained relationship between England and its team.

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She was photographed in various stages of despair as she watched her goalkeeper boyfriend slump to defeat against Croatia in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. "I told the players before the game there was no pressure - we have reached the semi-finals, enjoy your football and this was exactly what we did".

Jubilant Croatian fans honked their auto horns and let off fireworks while England fans sobbed and looked to the future with confidence after Mario Mandzukic's extra-time victor took Croatia to its first World Cup final.

"But, once we were here we really believed we could win the game".

Some may see this as a negative, but England's set-piece prowess is only a good thing, as they look a threat at every corner and free-kick that they get.

A World Cup of surprises concludes with a final of contrasts.

Eric Amsalem, a 48-year-old Croatian fan with his face painted in the colours of the national flag said: "It's a small country". We will want to give a performance of huge pride.

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