Croatia came, fought and conquered while England trudged in lumber; very far, but not far enough

AIWA! We Press: It is painful for everyone. But it is a fact. Football is about winning and losing. And today England lost because of this simple fact.

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On a night of almost unbearable tension, Mario Mandzukic’s well-taken goal in the second half of extra-time was enough to end all the unlikely English dreams and secure Croatia a World Cup final with France.

What do  we need to do to move forward, further than  where we have reached, where we are  here and beyond? Plan, invest, build and train: academies, coaches , managers and players.  And communities. England should not see themselves as a football team whose destination at competitive levels is always failure. Come on! Football was invented in England after all.

Gareth Southgate, the understated manager, has transformed the nation’s relationship with its football team.

He has managed to unify us where everyone else has failed; and he has gone beyond football at that. He made English football more personable to fans and the media. Commonality and a bit of national pride; one’s identity. england-squad-world-cup-2018full

And when the dust has finally settled Gareth Southgate’s The Three Lions Warriors were beaten by the better team – although there wasn’t much in it for anybody.

But England have exceeded all expectations, entered the semi-finals first time since 1966, restored some of their battered international pride and can return home with heads held high.

 

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‘Behave Yourselves’: Emergency Services Issue Warning To England Fans Ahead Of World Cup Semi-Final Clash

Police chiefs and emergency services are warning England fans to “behave themselves” ahead of tonight’s semi-final match against Croatia.

Following England’s win against Sweden on Saturday, police said there was “significant disorder” with 387 incidents across the country leading to 70 arrests.

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© Thomson Reuters

Soccer Football – World Cup – England fans watch Sweden vs England – Bristol, Britain – July 7, 2018 England fans celebrate outside Ashton Gate Stadium during the match Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes TPX

The “worrying level of mostly alcohol-related disorder” stretched forces’ resources on Saturday, said Mark Roberts, the head of football policing for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, which represents 44 forces across England and Wales.“Saturday’s match was a great day for England and it’s right to celebrate it,” he said. “The vast majority of fans do that without committing criminal and anti-social behaviour. It’s incredibly disheartening to see over 300 incidents of alcohol fuelled disorder from a minority of mindless individuals.

“This behaviour has real consequences. Numerous roads across the country were blocked, stopping emergency vehicles getting to people in need and an ambulance is now off the road while being repaired.

The Three Lions are just one game away from their first final since 1966, with Croatia standing between them

The Three Lions are just one game away from their first final since 1966, with Croatia standing between them and a showpiece against England’s players and their manager have an opportunity to achieve sporting immortality on Wednesday as they aim to reach the 2018 World Cup final to play France, who beat Belgium on Tuesday.

The names of Sir Alf Ramsey and his players – still the only 11 Englishmen to play in a World Cup final – will be recalled forever and their stories told whenever the nation’s landmark moments in sport are revisited.

This is the level of prize and prestige on offer in Moscow for a team given little hope of progressing past the quarter-finals before the tournament began.

READ:Reality Check: Do England do better in red or white?england-squad-world-cup-2018full

It is England’s most significant World Cup game since the semi-final loss to West Germany on penalties at Italia ’90 – with the prospect of matching that famous occasion from 52 years ago if they win.

And it is even more remarkable when placed in the context of the shambles of Euro 2016, when England were deservedly humbled in the last 16 by underdogs Iceland.

When Gareth Southgate took charge of England amid the chaos and confusion of Roy Hodgson’s resignation after the embarrassment in France and Sam Allardyce’s one-game reign, the notion of him potentially putting his name alongside the great Ramsey would have been regarded as plucked from the realms of fantasy.

Ramsey, reserved but tactically brilliant, took the job after winning the title at Ipswich Town. Southgate’s only venture into club management ended in the sack at Middlesbrough.

But he has rebuilt his reputation within the Football Association’s framework with such success he now has the chance to make history.

And there are certain things about Southgate that the legendary Ramsey might just have admired, namely his fierce loyalty to his players – Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli are prime examples – and the loyalty he is given in return.

READ: Prince Harry predicts football is coming home ahead of England VS Croatia

It has all come together brilliantly in a campaign that has gathered momentum as it moved around Russia.