The Hurt continues and back to earth with a bump - in all honesty England didn't deserve to win that game.
Reaching the semi finals is no mean achievement, even allowing for the 'dead easy' opposition in the previous rounds which perhaps lead to the misguided euphoria of "Football is Coming Home" which I believe is number one ATM !!! But in reality after all the media and expert glowing endorsements for the team, the fact remains England's prima donnas failed to live up to the hype - as I forecast Croatia were in a different class and so many of Southgate's first choice were shown up as not good enough against the first real decent footballing side. The fact that so many of the cream of the game had fallen on the route to the semis, convinced many aching for success that this time it might be different and we were told by some that we had to ,,,,,,,,,,"sit back and enjoy the experience - ",,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,we would never have a better chance" - England had ONE shot on target in the whole 120 minutes - Trippiers free kick !!!!!
I guess it's easy to overlook the errors made by Southgate and his over reliance of his favourites - by the fact that results seemed to prove he'd found a magic formula - so if it ain't bust don't fix it - well that worked !! All the way through the tournament the shortcomings and weaknesses were there for all to see, but Southgate carried on regardless believing only his first choice eleven were good enough - ultimately that fact was England's downfall and that for me is a major worry going forward with England - the fact that the manager has a bad case of tunnel vision.
When the dust settles he has to reconfigure his approach and bite the bullet on certain players. Defensive frailties were always a concern for me and so it proved last night.
Jordan Pickford - the one real success story of the World Cup - young and brave he can only improve, only a matter of time before he gets a move to a 'Big' club - but for him England would have gone out to Columbia(penalties) ,,,,,,,,,,errrrrmmmmm.
Trippier Great improverer with accurate delivery at set pieces looks like first choice in his position - no arguments there.
Walker Struggled at C/B all the way through - he's quick but his spacial awareness is suspect - which is not his fault having played his entire career at right back - round peg who was caught out for the Mandzukic winning goal.
Stones Average at best, not one of my favourites and his Moneybags City connections goes a long way to ensure his selection no doubt.
Maguire Another success - still getting used to the role, but looks a corner stone for the future - another who will be moving up soon no doubt
Young As a wing back on the left side he's not quite convinced me - again maybe his Man U connections blindsided Southgate - predictable for the most part and lacks real pace for the role.
Henderson Bit of a curates egg - could never impose himself on the game against Croatia and as a result our midfield struggled, but he was the only real option in the squad for the role.
Alli For what ever reason we rarely saw the real Dele Alli of Spurs - of undoubted class but he never turned up for England - major disappointment.
Lingard At times looked the part and I think he has a future for England - he is a bit lightweight - but so is Modric !!!
Sterling Under performed big time - I will leave it there
Kane May well win the Golden Boot which will be some compensation, but I'm not sure he was well served by the formation Southgate decided on, constantly isolated with his back to goal and often too deep to be a threat, he had to feed on scraps against Croatia. I'm a big fan of Harry Kane but we didn't see him at his best in this world cup and I don't think it was all his fault - being partnered with Sterling didn't work - pure and simple!!
The other players in the squad never really had a chance to impress from the start of games and had to rely on bit part substitute appearances, which I think was criminal for some - Rose in my eyes is a far better player(than Young) and could have made a huge difference had he started last night. Same could be said for Rashford who only got game time when desperation set in !!! I would even have given Loftus-Cheek a start in place of the under performing Alli.
Was it arrogance from Southgate that he thought 'his' first choices were good enough to win the game or was it that he couldn't see the wood the trees - his over reliance on his favourites is what cost England last night and that for me is a major worry for the future.
In closing this tome on England - I'm immensely proud of what England achieved in Russia but so gutted that we didn't go all the way, are the players heroes or villains