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11th Jul 2018

England are out of the World Cup

The dream is over

Wayne Farry

Football won’t be coming home this year

England have been eliminated from the 2018 World Cup after a crushing late defeat to Croatia in the semi-finals.

Gareth Southgate’s took the lead early in the game through a spectacular free-kick from Kieran Trippier, who curved the ball over the heads of two of Croatia’s tallest players – Dejan Lovren and Mario Mandzukic – to nestle the ball into the top corner.

England controlled the game for long periods and had two clear opportunities to increase their lead, first through Harry Kane and then through Jesse Lingard.

Kane’s chance came when he cut inside, a move he has made his own, but rather than tuck the ball away past the Croat keeper, he hit it at him. A second chance followed seconds later, but it looped wide off the Croatian defender.

Lingard’s chance, though further out, was even better. Receiving the ball in the centre of the Croatian box after a good move, the Manchester United midfielder had all the time in the world but failed to get his shot on target.

This pattern continued for the entirety of the second half as the Croats appeared to tire beyond belief, but they came out for the second half revitalised.

Upon their return to the pitch they were slicker and faster, not only than their first half selves but also than their opponents, and capitalised on it in brutal fashion.

The equaliser came from Ivan Perisic, who received a beautiful cross into the box. Marked by Kyle Walker, Perisic had a yard on the City defender and, as Walker dived to head the ball, toe-poked it past Jordan Pickford.

Minutes later, Perisic hit the post, and from there the Croatians took control. Modric pulled the strings as has done in every match since he first touched a football.

Still, no goal looked incoming, and everyone readied themselves for 30 minutes more.

The best England chance within those first 15 minutes came when John Stones met a header and sent it towards goal. It looked destined for the net but was heartbreakingly cleared by a Croatia defender.

The first half petered out with the only other moment of note being a stunning reaction save from Jordan Pickford before, as happens, the second half came.

It was inside of the first five minutes that the crucial and devastating decider came.

This time it was Mandzukic, who like Perisic capitalised on some sluggish defending, the most sluggish defending of England’s entire World Cup campaign.

Following the ball as it came over his shoulder, Mandzukic hit a low cross past Pickford. By the time it hit the net the England defence had caught up. And only then.

10 minutes passed, England rarely threatened, and Croatia dominated until the end.

It was a heartbreaking end to England’s campaign.

But the disappointment and the low of elimination only served to illustrate how high the highs were, and how proud this England team has made an entire nation.