England could still win the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

England's forward Harry Kane applauds at the end of their 2018 World Cup quarter-final match against Sweden at the Samara Arena in Samara

England's forward Harry Kane applauds at the end of their 2018 World Cup quarter-final match against Sweden at the Samara Arena in Samara

"The game became too end-to-end and we didn't build in the way we had been".

"We have come an incredibly long way in a short period of time".

'Did we expect to be in this position? "I think France will win the title".

After 20 minutes of emotion on the pitch - where players barely said a word to each other while Southgate comforted each and every one - the England stars returned to the dressing room to rousing applause.

"The difference sadly is a set play in a very close and tight game", lamented Belgium boss Roberto Martinez.

"It hurts, I don't know what else to say, it hurts", Kane said after the match.

Chants of "we're proud of you" were blasted out as the players lined up in an nearly transfixed glaze at the thousands of England fans filling the stadium. As we reflect there will be a lot more positives but tonight it is hard to take.

Croatian talisman Modric could make the difference against England
I do think they will edge it but Croatia are a great side. "And then we look forward to doing it all again on Sunday!" The South American nation was bundled out of the tournament after losing 2-1 to Belgium on Friday, July 6.

Croatia had twice needed penalties to get to this stage, first in the round of 16, where they beat Denmark, then in the quarterfinals, where they beat hosts Russian Federation, two shootouts that made goalkeeper Danijel Subašić a hero. They have broken through a number of barriers over the last few weeks'.

Southgate and his players will rightly receive huge praise as they have done so much to restore England's reputation and reconnect the public to their football team.

The event was backed by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who said: "World Cup fever has gripped London and the rest of the nation and we have all been swept away by the fantastic exploits of Gareth Southgate's team".

"This was Croatia to get to the World Cup final - it's not going to get better than this I don't think".

He said: "I think Croatia have a better side". Had Southgate's players faced a Brazil, France, Uruguay or Portugal before this stage, they might not have made it so far because the lack of service to Harry Kane would really have told against such high-quality opposition. The way they've represented their country has been exemplary.

Croatian Cultural Society spokesman Goran Katich watched the game with fellow supporters at the Croatian club in west Auckland and said they were ecstatic when the final whistle went.

But he lamented England's failure to take full advantage of what appeared an unusually easy route to the final, avoiding most of the heavyweight teams in Russian Federation.

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