It’s been a truly remarkable World Cup in Russia so far, with just the third-place playoff and the final left to play.
Before the tournament began, not many people held out much hope for Gareth Southgate and his young and fairly inexperienced England side, but they managed to not only prove all their doubters wrong as they stunned the world by making it as far as the semi-finals. England has once again established themselves as contenders on the world stage and that’s a great achievement.
The group stages went to plan for the Three Lions as a late Harry Kane goal, the current top scorer at the tournament, secured a 2-1 victory in the opening game against Tunisia. England then followed that up by demolishing Panama 6-1 and this secured their place in the knockouts. England did lose their final group game 1-0 against Belgium as both sides made numerous changes with qualification already in the bag.
England then finally beat the penalty curse that has plagued them for years as they beat Colombia 4-3 in a shootout before following that up with a 2-0 win against a lacklustre Sweden. The Three Lions, guided by Gareth Southgate, had made it to the World Cup semifinals for the first time in 28 years, they were 90 minutes from announcing themselves as world champions and they got off to a great start as Kieran Trippier, one of England’s star men in Russia, converted a freekick after just 5 minutes against Croatia.
Disaster struck though as Ivan Perisic equalised in the 68th minutes forcing extra time, before Mario Mandzukic capitalised after the England defence switched off, sending Croatia through. Perhaps it was the inexperience of the squad that proved a deciding factor, especially for Mandzukic’s winner as both John Stones and Harry Maguire, two players who have been superb for England at the World Cup, seemed to have gone to sleep and this allowed the experienced striker to finish from close range.
England has been brilliant throughout the whole tournament, especially where set pieces are concerned, but one thing they have been guilty of is not creating enough clear-cut chances in front of goal, while also being unable to take opportunities when they present themselves. Against Croatia, England could have been out of sight before half-time and there was always that feeling that the missed chances could come back to haunt them, which they did.
There are a lot of positives to take from Russia, with England now set to take on Belgium in the third-place playoff. The likes of Jordan Pickford, Harry Maguire and Kieran Trippier really established themselves as household names with some remarkable performances. Harry Kane is in line to win the Golden Boot and Jordan Henderson proved just how valuable he is in the middle of the park. The future is certainly bright for this young side and they’re only going to get stronger. You can certainly see them fairing well in the Euros.