FOR JUST OVER an hour, England supporters dared to hope – as they led Croatia 1-0 in the Football World Cup semi-finals. The hope slowly crumbled away as Croatia finally equalised and then scored a second goal in extra time.
The young squad, led by manager Gareth Southgate, were the first England team to reach the World Cup semi-final since 1990. They began the tournament with few England supporters really believing that they could do well – a pessimism the young squad quickly turned around.
Perhaps it was when the nation began, collectively, to hope that the team could go “all the way” that their progress was jinxed.
Tripier scored for England after just five minutes, from a brilliant free kick. The pressure was on Croatia, and England kept up a fast pace to increase the pressure even more. Croatia kept their cool.
Both Harry Kane and Jesse Lingard nearly increased the score, but their shots at goal were saved and wide respectively. Croatia held on – and in the second half they came into their own, with Perisic equalising after 68 minutes.
After that, the battle was even, taking the game to extra time. England goalie Jordan Pickford made an electric save after Mandzukic tried to go ahead from close range, and John Stones came close at the other end. Finally, Mandzukic got his way, with the single winning goal.
England will now meet Belgium on Saturday to decide the third and fourth placings. Whatever the outcome, this determined young team – and, of course, its manager – have earned the supporters’ undying respect. This World Cup campaign will be fondly remembered for years to come.