England must make World Cup run the start of something big, not another false dawn

For England, this was so much better than anyone could have possibly expected. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.

That’s the problem with progress. People will always want more and, having been within 22 minutes of playing in their first World Cup final since 1966, England must now prepare for a third-place playoff against Belgium in Saint Petersburg on Saturday, when they really wanted to be playing in Moscow 23 hours later.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Croatia, in the end, were simply too good and too streetwise in the semifinal and their 2-1 victory was deserved, despite England’s impressive start to the game.

But defeat still stings for Gareth Southgate and his overachieving players.9

“Did we feel we would be in this position?” Southgate asked after the game. “Realistically, I don’t think any of us did.

“But when you get to this point and play as well as we did in the first half, you want to take those opportunities in life, so the dressing room is a very difficult place at the moment.”

England’s shortcomings, the fault lines that have consumed them long before the semifinal stage in previous tournaments, remain the same as ever. Southgate has done well to mask his team’s flaws and give them a renewed sense of confidence and identity, but the problems that cost them against Croatia were the same that almost handed victory to Colombia in the round of 16.

England don’t have a Modric — few teams do — but they have to learn how to control games better against top-class teams. Had Southgate’s players faced a Brazil, France, Uruguay or Portugal before this stage, they might not have made it so far because the lack of service to Harry Kane would really have told against such high-quality opposition.

Southgate is keen to remind people that England’s squad was the least experienced in Russia. This journey to the semifinal will certainly help his players and make them more confident in the future, but their lack of nous at this level did show against Croatia.nfl replica jerseys cheap

“We played extremely well in the first half, given the size of the game, and I was really pleased with the way we controlled possession,” Southgate said. “But when you’re in charge of the game and have the chances we had, you have to take a second goal at that point.