England manager Gareth Southgate was disappointed his wards could not make the most of their early dominance in Wednesday’s 1-2 semi final loss to Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium.
England’s high hopes of winning the World Cup trophy for the first time in fifty-two years came to an excruciating end after Mario Mandzukic ghosted inside the box before finishing beyond Jordan Pickford in first half of extra time.
Southgate’s Lions had the game within grasps until the final twenty five minutes of regulation time when their opponents turned the game in its head. The manager gave an analytical breakdown of how his team fared in the three halves of the game.
“I think we played extremely well in the first half,” said Southgate.
“Given the size of the game, I was glad with the way we controlled possession and (in) the decision making.”
“We had a little less composure with the ball in the second half and whether that had an effect on us subconsciously, I don’t know. Great credit to Croatia, they came really strong.
“I think our players regained composure in extra time but they (Croatia) were always dangerous and have some individuals that can hurt you, at this stage of the competition, the margins are fine and once they took their chance, we were unable to respond,” he added.
The 47-year old could not run out of superlatives for his team’s conquerors, Croatia who are getting to the World Cup final for the first time in their history. The East Europeans were stretched to extra time in their three knockout games and Southgate believes that is a true test of their character.
“They’ve had an incredible route to the final and have shown character.
“They have some great players and experienced individuals and we will be wishing them well for the final.”
Defeat remains very painful for England at this stage and the “Waist-Coat Man” as Southgate is now being regarded in England is very proud of his players.
“When you get to the stage we got to in the first half, you want to take your chance so everyone in the dressing room is sad at how it ended.
“But I have to say I am proud of the players. It’s not easy to come over it quickly, I’m hugely proud of what they have done because they have broken through a number of barriers over the past few weeks,” he submitted.
England will now head to St Petersburg for the third place playoff, also known as the Losers’ Final against Belgium on Saturday. Both teams met in their final group game in Kaliningrad with the Belgian Red Devils winning 1-0.
Fisayo Dairo reporting from Moscow