Southgate: “We were so close to what was unimaginable at the start”

England’s hopes of making the World Cup final came to an end last night as the Three Lions slipped to a 2-1 extra time defeat to Croatia in the Luzhniki Stadium.

Southgate’s men took the lead in the fifth minute via a sublime Kieran Trippier free kick, and dominated the game for the vast majority of the first-half.

However, Croatia stepped things up a gear in the second period, with Ivan Perisic volleying home from close range to send the game in to extra, before Mario Mandzukic broke English hearts in the 109th minute when he took advantage of some tired defending to slot a tidy finish past Jordan Pickford.

Southgate has carried himself with real class in Russia this summer, and he admitted after the game that his young and inexperienced squad – who were written off by so many just weeks ago – had given everything for the cause and exceeded all expectations:

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“By the end several players were out on their feet and we were down to 10. The reaction from the fans at the end shows you everything they’ve given,” He told ITV.

“We’ve come an incredibly long way in a short space of time. The whole thing is beyond where we thought we might go. Tonight we weren’t quite there. But the team will be stronger for it.

“As we reflect, there will be positives but it’s difficult tonight. We were so close to what was unimaginable at the start.

“We’ve left everything out there. We’ll look at the goals and chances but I don’t think we could have given more over these six or seven weeks.”

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