England hold their heads high despite pain of World Cup loss
- Lionel Gonzales
I don't think any of them could have given any more.
With the game's score tied as of this story's publish, chances are high there will only be more beer spilled as English - and Croatian - fans continue to root avidly for their country's success on the World Cup stage.
When they finally took their leave and returned to the solitude of the dressing room, it was to absorb the range of emotions they felt on this humid night in Moscow, to learn the lessons of the past month and use them to map out a brighter future.
Despite taking the lead early in the first half on Wednesday, England suffered the familiar story of World Cup heartbreak as Croatia equalised in the second half and then claimed the victor in the second period of extra time.
With the 2018 World Cup final locked in, France have opened as the favorites over Croatia for Sunday's match.
Croatia have yet to lose at this summer's World Cup, having blitzed through the group stage with wins over Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland, before edging past Denmark and Russian Federation on penalties.
In the stadium that can still echo to the memories of the legendary middle distance battles between Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe at Moscow's 1980 Olympics, England stumbled with the finishing tape in sight.
The dwindling glass half-empty crowd will tell you Raheem Sterling does not take his chances, they will point to his England goals record and complain his end product is not good enough.
This time around, we could see the stars play, or we could see some more reserves to get some guys some minutes, and that makes picking here hard.
Southgate is keen to remind people that England's squad was the least experienced in Russian Federation.
The surge of support for Southgate is a remarkable turnaround from the mid-1990s when he was ridiculed for missing a decisive penalty in England's semi-final shootout defeat to Germany at the 1996 European Championships.
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Nadal broke for 3-2 but had to save break points in the sixth and eighth games before securing a memorable victory. Isner has yet to be broken at this year's tournament and saved the only break point he faced on Wednesday.
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If they win, they head to the final against France.
Private jets and charter planes were hired, the gloriously ornate corridors and giant escalators of this city's famous Metro system were suddenly filled with familiar songs and England's white shirts.
"No way will they have such an easy route next time".
Overall, it's not a surprise Belgium is favored, as it has looked like the better team in this tournament and has more talent.
The Croatian players were quick to tend to Cortez.
"Tonight was a wonderful opportunity for us and you can't guarantee those opportunities come again, but we want to be a team who are hitting quarterfinals, semifinals and finals".
When the final whistle blew and they knew they were going to their first World Cup final, the Croatians ran to their jumping and cheering fans in their iconic red-and-white checkered jerseys. He has shown a sure touch in his handling of matters on and off the pitch and is a young, progressive coach.
"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 hard place at the moment".
In the end, neither Croatia nor England was expected to make it this deep into the tournament, but here they are and France is waiting.
And on the field new stars were made. And while the young Lions - tied with Les Bleus as the greenest in the whole tournament - barely threatened for most of the next hour, it felt like Trippier's early strike would hold up against a exhausted team that had played nearly another full match in winning its first two knockout games from the penalty spot. "I will get more attention and it won't be easy to go out for meals if I am in certain places but it won't change my view on the world or the things I attempt to do". They reached the World Cup semi-final for the first time since Italia 90. Nobody wanted to give in. It could be a repeat of that under-strength group game that brought a Belgian victory.
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