Time for the England post-mortem: Did we even improve?

Date published: Thursday 12th July 2018 9:00

Read 16 Conclusions, then send your thoughts to theeditor@football365.com


One conclusion
So, basically, we lost to the first good team we came up against.
Matt Pitt


Two questions
Sterling for Rashford… why?

Henderson for Dier…why?
J. Wirral


Bronze ain’t bad
Third place trophy is coming home!
Stijn, Amsterdam


Proud of the England team tonight. They may have lost the game but they’ve gone further than any England team in awhile. Let it not be forget that everyone but the World Cup winners have to “lose” somehow before the tournament ends.

As already known, England haven’t made it to the Semis since 1990 (the year I was born), and haven’t won’t a World Cup knockout game in 12 years. Haven’t won a penalty shootout since…….well the age of the dinosaurs.

Now they have done all of those things. If you told any reasonable England fan before the World Cup started that England will achieved those things as opposed to losing at the group stage, they’ll take it.

I may not be from England, but I’ve been an England fan for long awhile. This team has brought people together like never before. Even without their achievements, there’s just something likable about them and Southgate himself is a breath of fresh air. Make no mistake, it isn’t just about nationalist pride.
Yaru. Malaysia


Firstly, I have to say how happy it makes me to sit here and not only look back at the past month, but to be able look forward with anticipation as we have a young team and manager with an excellent blueprint for future success.

No scapegoats. No anger. Just sheer pride with the way we have conducted ourselves throughout the competition.

The biggest difference tonight was Modric – in the important moments, he was the player who dictated play in the second half, the man who came deep to collect the ball and spread play. He was magnificent. As soon as the tempo dropped we were in trouble, which allowed their technical midfielders showed their quality in the end. The kind of quality that makes you watch the game though your fingers, heart pumping, knowing the opposition can score at any moment. Then after going behind, desperately willing Alli, Lingard, anyone to find some magic – because this fabulous, wondrous journey can’t be done yet, can it?

But it is. Just that little bit of extra quality and experience in the middle of the park saw Croatia over the line. That’s all. There can be no regrets. What’s left is a strange kind of feeling; certainly not “same old England,” but rather, extreme disappointment tempered with the knowledge that this is merely the end of the beginning. And I can wait to see where it leads.
Rob S


They played well, did us proud, and came up a tiny bit short in the end. A great tournament, with no passengers, no malcontents, no self sabotage, just a great team that did everything they could. Better luck next time lads, come on England!
Dan, Plastic LFC 


Brian (Proud) England


Sterling still rubbish
F365’s ongoing defence
of Raheem Sterling is touching and well reasoned. But it is infused with the site’s usual, leftist sneer at anyone who dares to have a slightly different opinion. Well, I dare . . . I get that Sterling is quick. I get that he makes clever runs. I get that he is willing and hardworking and Croatia and other teams were therefore terrified of balls over the top. But what F365 fails to address is Sterling’s dreadful touch, his appalling decision-making and his inability to finish. Time and again, this cost us in Russia. These are the reasons that the more level-headed England fans criticise Sterling. These are also the reasons, mark my words, that Guardiola will upgrade on him at the first opportunity.
Matt Pitt


I don’t think there are many people left who genuinely don’t understand why Raheem Sterling starts for England; who don’t see the threat he carries with his movement.

What I think Matt Stead misses is that whenever Sterling received the ball he either made the wrong decision or no decision at all. This was particularly stark last night. It’s great if you can cause that level of panic in the opposition defence, but ultimately you have to take advantage of that with the ball at your feet.

We know he’s good, we know his directness offers something unique in this team. It’s just not been enough in Russia.
Neil, LFC


Curse that finishing
I thought that match (amongst many other things, was a really good game. Lots of chances, clear desire from both teams, differing style of play, exceptionally high stakes, and a team that I care about involved in it.

Well done to Croatia for their better levels of composure and fitness. They deserved their win, and could have scored more through the second half and extra time. England, though, were by no means out of it at any time and clearly looked capable of scoring goals throughout.

However, a certain amount of criticism of the performance is worth raising too. From a tactical perspective I agree with the ITV commentary team that it was too easy for Croatia to switch play from their left to right and to leave men over at that side. Dele Alli was made a peripheral attacking figure as he spent the whole second half chasing players while defending.

My main complaint though was England’s finishing (and to a lesser extent the final balls or players’ touch as they received final balls). England’s number of shots was not as high as Croatia’s but for me they had many many better chances to make a better chance (I hope that makes sense!). Kane is the only really reliable scorer in the team and he fluffed his big chance in the first half. Sterling, Lingard, Alli, Rashford can all score, but as has been well reported, they are not clinical finishers. That said I definitely saw today what pundits have bleated on about with regards to Sterling’s play, which I though was excellent tonight.

Before half time, England needed to be 2 or 3 up. After 15 minutes I said England need to make this count, and they didn’t. Croatia couldn’t possibly be so bad for the rest of the game, they were there for the taking and England couldn’t quite step up.

Excellent run at the tournament, well beyond expectation, but there will long be a lingering disappointment that this was the best chance for many more tournaments to reach a final. Personally I still see another ‘30 years of hurt’ coming up now unfortunately and pesimistically.

Hope the final’s a good one!
Ian Towns (3rd place playoff will be another horrible meeting of second teams), MUFC


Missed opportunity
Before the papers (including my beloved but sometimes very liberally blinkered F365) tomorrow inevitably talk of our “brave heroes”, I just want to say a few things as I sit in the familiar depths of spirit crushing disappointment.

The fact is that we were heavy favourites in each of our games (leaving the Belgium dead rubber aside). We played the system well in getting the favorable draw but ultimately we should have expected to win each of our games, including the semi. We didn’t heroically get to the semis and are now out in a blaze of glory. No, we failed in another game we should have won. In my opinion this was down to 2 things. First, Southgate made no positive substitutions when it mattered. He only reacted after the team was in huge panic mode (See Colombia and Croatia games). Second, the refusal to make any changes in line up was strange. Rose did enough to suggest he’d be better than Young and sure enough Young was awful today (not the only one, where was Kane???), leaving the Croatia right wing completely exposed. And whilst Sterling arguably had his best game of the tournament today his first touch was still bad and his lack of form meant he deserved to be dropped for Rashford. Finally, Eric Dier… To be fair, he changed both games he played significant minutes in. Unfortunately to our detriment each time. How was RLC or Delph not a better option to get control of the midfield?? What is a Dier???

Ugh. I don’t even know why I’m writing. I’m just so upset at what is undoubtedly the best chance we will ever have of making the WC Final that I just need to vent. I appreciate that it is pointless. I just really needed this. After decades of hurt I had started to hope again. All fool me. I don’t mind losing to a better team but I really believe we just let ourselves down badly. Again.

Football. Bloody hell…..


There’ll be a lot of ‘So proud’ statuses and talk of how we’ve exceeded all expectations, but in the cold light of day we’ve wasted the biggest opportunity, an opportunity we’ll likely never get again in our lifetime. There’s obviously many positives to take, getting to a semi-final in itself, the performances of players like Trippier, Maguire and Kane, but for all the hype and excitement of the previous week, in the cold light of day, this has got to be one of the biggest anti-climaxes in history.

On reflection having a tournament where we narrowly beat Tunisia, thrashed a Sunday League nation, lost a reserve match to Belgium, scraped past a Rodriguezless Colombia and beat a Sweden team with about as much speed as an IKEA cue on a weekend and then lost a damp squib of a semi-final to an average team who’s best player is a 33 year old who looks like a lesbian with a muscle wasting disease, isn’t actually as impressive as we thought. And now we’ve got to face the indignity of playing a 3rd place play-off, or Belgium Reserves vs England Reserves 2nd Leg.. Its like if Prince Harry had lifted the veil and instead of Meghan Markle underneath it was Susan Boyle. Yes he’s still getting a wife but it’s scant consolation.

As for the ‘Sir Gareth Southgate’ campaign, he may be a nice bloke but he’s still an average at best manager. Any half decent manager could have guided this team this far with the draw we were handed. Bobby Robson and his side took the best team in the World and eventual winners down to the wire. Bobby Robson had also previously won the UEFA and FA Cup, whereas Southgate’s most notable achievement in club management was getting Middlesbrough relegated. M and S can sell all the waistcoats they like and people can talk about what a gentleman he is, but for me he’s always going to be the manager who squandered England’s best shot at a final since 66


I’ve read all summer about how England don’t deserve to be there. I’ve read all summer about how they had an easy draw. I’ve read all about how they got lucky against Tunisia, should have lost to Sweden apart from Jordan’s saves and would lose to the first decent team they faced. I’ve read all about how we are arrogant and deluded and really should know our place. I’ve laughed in their faces. This England team were doing things to my nether regions I never expected them to do so. I was happy to be in the semi and couldn’t be prouder of their exploits.

But then we scored. And then we somehow got to half time only 1-0 up. And then we just sat back and launched long balls in the second half and I just knew. And despite all the good will and all the joy we have had his summer I still cannot let go of the nagging feeling that this was the chance of a lifetime. Why on earth should we be losing out to a country like Croatia. I mean, fair play, they were awesome and Modric is just a different planet, but we should really be beating them given our resources and our league. This is not some sense of English entitlement, just simple economics. And it makes me sad that we missed out on such an opportunity.

I’ve spent all summer reading comments from utter bell ends about how England are a load of pish and have no right to dream and should go back into their boxes, the imperialistic bastards. And I’ve ignored all that. By rights I should be grateful to get to the semi-finals and our recent, ignominious, history.

But no. I am not happy or grateful. I wanted that feeling of a World Cup final appearance. I wanted that joy of knowing we were mere minutes and a goal from lifting the trophy. I wanted that sense of anticipation. Because I am worried it will never come back. Watch us in the second half and the age old England problems resurfaced. Lumping it aimlessly. Backs to the wall. Last ditch clearances of old.

I thought we had risen above all that. I thought we had turned a page, hell a whole new book.  But I suspect that when the dust settles and our next campaign begins, the same old England will resurface. This really was a chance of a lifetime.

I am loathe to speak like this. I have read all summer that we were not that good and I just thought ‘go away you insufferable bores’. But now I just think…will we ever reach such heights again? I really hope so, especially with the next generation coming through, but I am still too scarred from all England experiences past to think that we have a better chance in 2020 or 2022.
Rob (sorry for the negativity, I’ve loved this endless summer), Leicester


Need a midfielder
A few thoughts after watching that match. *This England team could do very good things in the future but they need a real midfield. Someone alongside Henderson. Their passing as the games have worn on in this world cup has been suspect at best.

* Their fitness levels also seem to be quite poor. Especially walker who seems to be hobbling at the end of every game.

* Harry Kane would do much better without all those attacking players. He seems to drop very deep which, against Columbia he did superbly, but when you are chasing a game you want him sat firmly on the penalty spot. I would have liked to see them drop sterling in favour of an extra central midfielder cough Wilshere.

* Vida had an unbelievable game. He’s surprisingly quick for a big lad especially seeing as he had Kane and sterling in his pocket all night.

* The better team won. Well done to Croatia. The final will be exciting.
Barry LUFC


Southgate must shoulder responsibility
Well, that’s a shame. For 62 minutes it looked like we could and might do it but ultimately the good run finally came to an end. We overachieved for sure but the squad should be proud of themselves; they went so much further than anyone ever thought they could and will surely return to a heroes welcome, whatever happens in Saturday’s (utterly pointless) playoff. But karma doesn’t half pick it’s moments: of course we would falter when the nation finally starts to believe. We are England, after all.\

The biggest disappointment is that the winner came from our mistake instead of a moment of brilliance, but the team with more quality and big game nous won. I don’t really believe that Croatia deserved to run out winners, but neither did we; on balance I think that penalties would have been a fairer finale. But, when all is said and done, I can’t see how either of those teams could possibly beat France on Sunday. It’s surely theirs to lose now (I’m going for 3-0).

Southgate, unfortunately, showed naivety in not reinforcing the midfield earlier. Croatia had been strolling through the middle for ages before we conceded the first, but he failed to address the issue, waiting far too long to bring on Dier. Even then it was a like-for-like swap, meaning that we were no better off really. These little mistakes add up to big problems and he needs to shoulder a lot of responsibility for not making the required changes when the game was getting away from us. Faith in the system is fine and dandy but when you’re under such pressure and starting to see lapses in concentration, you can’t rely on dumb luck to carry you through. You would hope that Gareth will learn from this experience and maybe we will have a good chance at the Euros. That being said, there’s no denying he’s done a great job at this tournament overall.

Alli should have been withdrawn way before full time because the game completely passed him by from half time onwards, but in all honesty he didn’t look fit enough to play 60, never mind 120 minutes. If the reluctance to remove him was because of a paucity of options (from a full compliment of players, no less) then I’m afraid that we brought the wrong players. I don’t believe that Loftus-Cheek, Dier or Delph would have done any worse than Alli in the second half.

Unfortunately, the officials lost their bottle in the second half and extra time. They started giving absolutely everything Croatia’s way, making an uphill battle even harder. There were several small decisions that went against us that, in isolation, meant little but added together caused us problems. Their constant falling for Croatian histrionics was disappointing too.

But the biggest problem was the complete absence of open play chances created. Kane had a couple he should have done better with, but we created so little in the whole game, with the team managing just 2 shots on target in 120 minutes. It’s not a complaint you would expect to be levelled at a team that scored 12 goals and will likely have the golden boot winner in their ranks, but set piece goals have definitely masked a glaring deficiency in England’s game. Hopefully some of the young emerging talents can step up in the next two years to give us more options at the Euros.

I’m gutted that we didn’t at least make it to the final. We would, in all likelihood, have been beaten by an unbelievable France squad, but it would have been nice to have got this young team into such a huge match if only just for the experience – anything could have happened on the night, so you never know really. I just hope that the media don’t do their usual hatchet job on the team and the coaches. For once, they really don’t deserve it. I, for one, am proud of what the team have done, and so should they be.
Ted, Manchester 


Instead of disappointment, I’m filled with a strange giddiness. Watching Southgate make his way round the team – speaking to each member of the team individually – I thought (more confidently than ever before), “he’s definitely going to win something with England”.

Never felt that when going out of a tournament before. Well done England.
Hither & Thither, CFC, London


He’s no different to…Hodgson
Idealistic revisionism is going to be of no use going into the Euros or the next World Cup.

Can we just acknowledge that this England team showed minimal improvement on what came before, and simply benefited from a far easier draw group stage onward?

As I have previously mentioned, Southgate is little different from Hodgson.  Ponderous in possession, devoid of attacking ambition and a truly bizarre use of substitutions. Our defense has been better, but how can you expect to win matches when you make barely any attempt to attack the opposition?

From the second half onwards, it was pathetic. Kudos to Pickford for doing his best to keep us in it. He deserved better from teammates. How Lingard and Alli have been starting this tournament is beyond me given their abject performances. Taking Sterling off instead of one of them was madness.

Will there be an easier path to a World Cup/Euros final over the next twenty or thirty years? It’s hard to envision. While some may be happy at losing to Croatia, saying we gave it our all, I am not. We did not give it our all. You may argue we’re no better a team than them; I at least expect us to give it a go rather than clinging on tenuously to a one-goal lead like it was David versus Goliath.

Still, I’ve no doubt Southgate will be in charge in Qatar regardless of how the Euros unfold given the bizarre amount of plaudits he’s received this summer. I only hope he grows a backbone, or some tactical nous, in the interim.

I’ll be surprised if the Mailbox isn’t baying for his blood come 2022.
Greg, AFC


Roy Keane had a bit of a ding dong in the post match talk and what he was saying was 100% correct. England had a golden chance to get to a World Cup final. Half time, 1-0 up and the better team and to now be out, they should never forgive themselves.

As a fan, I am sat writing this completely dumbfounded as to the nature of how England lost that match that I cant actually forgive myself. Casual. Lapse in concentration. Tip tapping the ball around. Where was the attitude we as the English expect? We can be devastated to lose against the Germans and Brazilians etc if we give it every thing but get outplayed but I can not believe my eyes from what I have seen.

The culprits are Stones, Walker, Lingard, Sterling and Dele. I don’t know how much of their performances are arrogance or unintelligence but it’s criminal. How Stones has allowed that ball to casually float over his head without him reacting AT ALL is beyond me. How? I wouldn’t accept that in my local u16s Sunday league game.

Walker has been a square peg in a round hole all tournament and his lack of understanding of defending crosses also came out big time. How Lingard can be in the middle of that midfield and attempt little flicks and casual side foots when a great chance to get a proper shot on goal comes up in  WORLD CUP SEMI FINAL is again, beyond me.

I could go on.

In comparison Modric and his mates played that match as if their lives depended on it and were dragged off the pitch. Half our team weren’t the same. Pickford, Trippier, Maguire, Young, Henderson and Kane can hold their heads up high as heroes. They gave it everything.

However, this tournament has done many many good things for the fans and their connection to the England team. Many. But when the “it’s coming home” nonsense has died and people look back at this tournament, the main feeling will be regret. How did we not beat Croatia?

For the reasons that I explained in casualness and sleeping in vital moments is unforgivable. England teams of the past got beat on pens and it hurt like hell but nobody questioned their attitude. Nobody. Ever.

This lot will wake up to Kanes bizarre doubke miss with Sterling there for a tap in, Stones complete mind freeze with a simple header in the box and insistence on tippy tapping the ball around when we were desperate for a goal from the 5th minute onwards.

The golden ticket has been thrown away for all the wrong reasons.
Ginger Pirlo 


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