A disappointing end to what was still a hugely successful tournament for England as they were defeated 2-1 by a strong Croatian side after extra time.
Following football’s detour on its way back home let’s take a look at five things we learned as England slumped to defeat against Croatia.
1) This England Side May Be Young, But They Are Not Ruthless Enough
During the first 45 minutes of the game, England looked much the better side. They dominated possession, they were first to every ball and crucially they created more chances than their opponents.
Where they let themselves down, however, was chance conversion. When Trippier rattled in that early freekick the Croatian defence looked as though they were there for the taking. England could not capitalise though.
Maguire had a chance from a set piece and Kane missed a one on one opportunity you’d expect him to always put away. Then the second half came and England sat back and as a result conceded before eventually losing in extra time.
This is an England side full of attacking prowess who really should’ve been two or three up at halftime.
2) The Croatian’s Showed No Signs Of Fatigue
Three games of 120 minutes in just over a week is as serious sign of a team’s mental and physical stamina. The Croatian’s did start the game slowly but grew into the game and were surprisingly the fresher side throughout much of the second half and extra time.
Croatia constantly pushed for the equaliser and when they got it they continued to push on again for a winner. A remarkable feat for a side that by all intents and purposes should be dead on their feet.
In extra-time, they looked decidedly comfortable and deserved their goal when it eventually came. Croatia will go into the final full of confidence despite having now played a total of 360 minutes in less than seven days.
3) Defensive Vulnerability Is Still A Cause Of English Concern
In the first game of the tournament against Tunisia England’s defensive frailties almost cost them two points. Harry Kane’s late goal made sure that it did not.
Against Columbia England conceded a late header which almost cost them the game, and despite a strong performance against Sweden, Southgate’s side again allowed the jitters at the heart of the defence to rear their ugly heads.
The passing at the back was occasionally sloppy although luckily not costly, but for Perisic’s goal, Trippier lost the Inter Milan man and Walker failed to spot him as he got to the ball first to grab the equaliser.
For the winner, Mandzukic was allowed to sneak in behind both Stones and Maguire to finish excellently past Pickford.
What Southgate is trying is almost working but you feel that there are certainly errors in this young English defence.
4) England’s Set-Pieces Proved Effective Once Again
Gareth Southgate’s men struggled in the second half to really create any chances but in the first, they again proved extremely dangerous from set-pieces.
Trippier scored an absolutely stunning freekick in the fifth minute to open the scoring and his deliveries were once again excellent as Harry Maguire caused the Croatian defence serious problems. In truth, the Leicester man should’ve grabbed himself a goal in the first period.
Despite only scoring two goals from open play the nine scored from set pieces will certainly be a cause for optimism for Southgate and co.
5) Luka Modric Deserves To Be In A World Cup Final
One of the finest midfield players of our generation it is fitting that Real Madrid’s Luka Modric will get the opportunity to play in a World Cup final.
Once again the diminutive midfielder was outstanding in the centre of the park as he ran the game for an impressive Croatian side.
His passing was crisp and stylish and his stamina makes you question how the ex-Tottenham Hotspur man can be in his thirties.
Regardless of whether or not Croatia go on to win the World Cup Modric should unquestionably be awarded the player of the tournament.