MOSCOW: England manager Gareth Southgate hailed the commitment of his team after their 2-1 extra-time defeat by Croatia in the World Cup semi-finals in the Luzhniki Stadium.
Croatia will face France in Sunday’s Final back in Moscow while England must regroup to face Belgium in the third place play-off in St Petersburg on Saturday.
Southgate said: “We played extremely well in the first half, given the size of the game. was really pleased with the way we controlled possession. Our decision making was good. When you’re in charge of the game and have the chances we had, you have to take a second goal at that point.
“We had a little less composure with the ball in the second half. Maybe that was a consequence of being ahead with the least experienced team in the finals, with an opportunity to get to a World Cup final… whether that had an effect, subconsciously, I don’t know. We then had to weather sustained pressure as Croatia came really strong. They have some outstanding players and some huge experience.
“The biggest thing is you see the supporters at the end and their reaction. That tells you what the players have given, not just tonight but over the period. I can’t ask any more than what the players and staff have given.”
The defeat ended England’s best run at a World Cup since 1990, and after the match Southgate insisted his team had done their country proud despite being undone by fine margins.
He said: “Knockout football is fine margins and when you have spells in a game against a side with real quality you have to make them count. We probably needed that second goal early in the game.
“I think we are where we are as a team. We’ve come an incredibly long way in a short space of time. The experiences of the matches with Colombia, Sweden… the whole thing is probably beyond where we thought we might be able to go. Tonight we weren’t quite there, but the team will be stronger for that.”