England manager Gareth Southgate insists his side will face their toughest challenge of the World Cup to date when they lock horns with Croatia in the semi-final. The Croatians rallied from behind to win 2-1 in extra time thanks to a goal from Mario Mandzukic.
'There will in time be lots of positives to take but it's too hard and too soon to put that in context.
Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic scored the victor in the 109th minute, sweeping home a left-foot shot after England had allowed him too much space in the penalty box.
Dead-ball situations once again played their part but were not the deciding factor for England and ultimately the "Love Train", as Glenn Hoddle has labelled it, was derailed. We have done that today in extra time. But then midway through the second half, Croatia struck. They are stronger in terms of mentality, strength. Croatian fans were elated; English fans fumed, claiming the goal should've been disallowed because of a high kick. They became the aggressors, pushing the attack and threatening several times when England's defense seemed to relax. The sound was eclipsed only by the joy that greeted Mario Mandzukic's extra-time victor and the impromptu fireworks celebration in the wake of the final whistle. Walker attempted to clear diving header but Perisic jumped and from behind raised his left boot over Walker's head to poke the ball past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford from about 8 yards.
It turned out to be the winning score.
With such a youthful squad taking part in Russian Federation, there is clearly a hope that Wednesday's semi-final defeat won't be the last time that this group of players contest the latter stages of a major tournament. But this English team won't be returning from Russian Federation with the proverbial tail between the legs.
Vrsaljko, who plays for Atletico Madrid, had struggled to be ready for the match after playing in two previous extra-time matches, but he found the strength to lift his exhausted, battered team to a comeback win.
Josip Pivaric of Croatia celebrates his Fifa World Cup semifinal win over England.
Cars and vans drove through the streets with Croatian flags stretched tightly across their bonnets, honking their horns at each other as workers clocked out for the day early and headed home to watch the game. And work apparently is not a problem for a team that made history Wednesday with its grit and effort and mental strength.
Speaking after the World Cup semi-final win over England, Lovren said he had been annoyed about questions related to a poor performance he had for Liverpool against Harry Kane's Tottenham last autumn, while Modric told ITV that "English journalists, pundits from television" had underestimated Croatia.
England will return to their Repino base near Saint Petersburg ahead of Saturday´s third place play-off against Belgium, a repeat of their final group match. Until proved otherwise, the only label that fits is "winner".