England target World Cup final but gifted Croatia stand in the way

England target World Cup final but gifted Croatia stand in the way

The last month has seen England reconnect with a disillusioned fan base, putting in performances that point towards a brighter future.

France, world champions in 1998 after beating Croatia in the semis, are in their third World Cup final.

England did a decent job of handling the pressure on Saturday as they beat Sweden 2-0 in the quarter-finals.

Croatia's defender Josip Pivaric celebrates with teammates after Croatia's forward Mario Mandzukic (C) scored their second goal during the Russian Federation 2018 World Cup semi-final between Croatia and England at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 11, 2018. They might have played 90 minutes more than us [due to extra-time in the last three matches] but the most determined team will win on Sunday.

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But into the second half Croatia's Ivan Perišić and high-kicked into the net. But when Mario Mandzukic caught Stones sleeping with just over 10 minutes to play, burying a left-footed shot under Pickford, England's World Cup dream was over.

That's exactly what Southgate and England captain Harry Kane called it immediately after losing to Croatia, using terms that losers of past World Cup semifinals have tossed around too. You probably knew that already. "We can't give them the freedom to do it". The fans were unbelievable. I can improve and get better... It's always there every time we wear the shirt of our national team, we want to play with pride, we want to play well and win. There are a lot of ifs and buts, in these games it's small margins. "There's nothing better than getting an early goal but we needed the next one". We want to go looking for it like all players. "We felt we were good enough but have fallen just a bit short".

"I think at the Euro we thought it was already a done deal, the mentality was not the same as now".

They'll have a little less than four days to rest up for the final against France, which has finished all of its games in regulation and has an extra day to prepare, having beaten Belgium on Tuesday.