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.

Diego Maradona blasts Lionel Messi after Argentina World Cup exit

DIEGO MARADONA has laid into Lionel Messi following Argentina’s exit from the World Cup.

Messi played an ineffectual role for most of the 4-3 defeat to Argentina on Saturday.

The Barcelona star played as a false nine with Cristian Pavon and Angel Di Maria either side of him.

It meant centre-forwards Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala and Sergio Aguero were left on the bench.

And Argentina icon Maradona has criticised Messi for his performance, likening him to Argentine comic character Patoruzú.

“I saw him very isolated, far away from the box,” Maradona said of Messi.

“I said that if he played as a No 9 and had to go looking for the ball, piece the game together, set the goals up and score them.

Diego Maradona Lionel Messi Argentina World CupEPA

Diego Maradona has criticised Lionel Messi and the Argentina side

Diego Maradona Lionel Messi Argentina World CupTASS

Lionel Messi (left) proved ineffectual as Argentina exited the World Cup

Patoruzu_

Patoruzú a the well-meaning but useless comic hero in Argentina

We are talking more about Patoruzú than about Lionel Messi

Diego Maradona

“It seemed we were talking more about Patoruzú than about Lionel Messi.”

Maradona went on to criticise manager Jorge Sampaoli for his starting XI.

“It was already predicted in the build-up. We knew after we left Moscow that Pavon, Messi and Di María were the ones who were going to attack the French defence, yet I don’t think they know a lot about the box, penalty spot or putting pressure on the centre-backs,” maradona said.

“Yes, they know how to create, but they’re not strikers.

“I think we went to the cinema more than the field because we came to see the chronicle of a death foretold.

“It’s true because Argentina inadvertently went out to attack France but made the mistake of leaving a lot of room for Mbappe.”

Diego Maradona10

Diego Maradona delivered his World Cup verdict after the Argentina defeat

He was spotted swearing at Nigeria fans after a late winner in the group stage, while he was also checked out by medical staff during the game in St Petersburg.

It is not known if Maradona will continue to watch games at the World Cup in Russia now Argentina are out.

As for the future, Maradona wants a new breed of players to be trusted in Argentina’s next tournament – the Copa America next summer.

“We have to aim at the kids, go through the good things that the boys leave us with even though they won’t be there anymore,” he said.

“(We have to) try to inculcate the sacred fire that at times seems to be lacking in Argentina.”

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Fans loved what Paul Pogba did to Lionel Messi after France beat Argentina in the last-16 of the World Cup

The Manchester United midfielder made a beeline for the world’s best player following the match.

Lionel Messi was understandably distraught following Argentina’s defeat by France in the last-16 of the World Cup on Saturday.

The Barcelona legend notched an assist on the day, but was unable to inspire a victory, as Les Bleus ran out 4-3 winners over the two-time champions of the tournament.

Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring from the penalty spot for France, after man of the match Kylian Mbappe was pulled down in the box by Marcos Rojo.

Angel Di Maria leveled the scores with a wonder strike before Gabriel Mercado latched onto a Messi shot to beat Hugo Lloris in the France goal, and put Argentina in front.

Lionel Messi was understandably distraught after the game

Benjamin Pavard then netted a wondergoal of his own to level the scores once more before an Mbappe double won the match for France.

Sergio Aguero bagged a late consolation, reducing the deficit to a single goal, but it was too little too late for Argentina.

Paul Pogba approaches the Argentina forward

After the match a number of Argentina players burst into tears on the pitch.

The cameras focused on Messi, who looked devastated, but managed to keep it together as players from both teams consoled him.

The Manchester United star gave Messi a hug

Paul Pogba was then seen creeping up behind the Barcelona star, and surprising him with a quick hug.

The gesture was short and sweet, and seemingly appreciated by Messi, and was picked up by a number of fans keeping track of the action at home.