Croatia were victorious over England in the World Cup semi-finals. After a vastly improved tournament, we assess where it went wrong for the Three Lions.
Firstly as an Englishman and football devotee, I would like to begin by saying congratulations to all Croatia. They were the better team on the night.
Can I also clarify that I will attempt to be as impartial and objective as always; despite how difficult and disheartening it is. Thus ensuring a balanced analysis. Ok, that is the boring statement completed: now down to the football!
On a highly emotional evening – knockouts always are so – was the correct eventuality. However, on paper and form, England’s national side are the superior outfit. By outlining three reasons, I aim to give definitive explanation to their elimination.
Despite vastly overachieving on initial misguided outside expectations and rightly winning the nation’s hearts – Gareth Southgate’s team did not squander the opportunity but missed a chance to lift the globe’s most prestigious trophy. Here is why:
1. Fatigue and injury
Take no credit away from Croatia. A country of four million, with such an inordinate rate of skilled, competitive and quite frankly gifted people per head.
Most noteworthy was their competing in two 120 minute games, two penalty shootouts and an all-night celebration subsequent to meeting England.
A cited fact in media discussions; as a bonus for Southgate’s side. In reality: Croats are a robust folk, with a now obvious energy, longevity of fitness and endurance.
Croatia’s game plan began similarly to the Colombians’: attrition. Wear the athletic, youngest tournament side down. The attenuation was not combated by the Three Lions or seemingly attended to by their management.
Then, as in the Round of 16, England’s war-weary, fatigued players receive an abrupt switch in style. Suddenly Croatia play swift, quick passes. Along with intelligent through balls, as well as systematically converting play to adept wing-backs; mounting flowing successful wide attacks.
After expectation of low Croat fitness levels and a tremendous free-kick opening goal from Kieran Trippier: fervent outpourings once again spilled on to English Twitter feeds. And open air screening area floors via beer as a medium.
Yet missed chances from Harry Kane and Jesse Lingard first half – in addition to a lack of punitive measures against Dejan Lovren’s dangerous challenges, in particular – left an ominously pessimistic feeling for me.
Second half the Lions began lethargically. Hopes for a rallying team talk concerning a potentially devastating eventuality, evidently did not materialise. Once again, Dele Alli looked injured or unfit.
Defenders could not run, or pass the ball out effectively, whilst being available for the return. Ironically, it was Southgate’s players who ran out of steam or who could not find the desired energy levels to win. They were not overawed by the occasion, contrarily to some opinions.