Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Sports | By Jonathan Ford

Gareth Southgate gave England staff handwritten notes before World Cup

Gareth Southgate gave England staff handwritten notes before World Cup

On Wednesday, after England lost the World Cup semi-final game to Croatia, fans, players, and team manager Gareth Southgate were completely heartbroken.

Belgium won that match, and did surprisingly well navigating the "side of death", defeating Japan and Brazil en route to the semifinal before falling 1-0 to France.

"I don't think realistically we expected to be here".

This is an England team which has inspired a level of belief and excitement among the country's population which hasn't been seen in more than 20 years, and it has not gone unnoticed among the squad.

England aren't exactly known for their success in penalty shootouts at a World Cup.

Meanwhile, the most popular three words for home team Russian Federation are "host", "fans" and "low-ranking".

Granted, Croatia are no strangers to chasing the game.

In capital Zagreb, more than 10,000 people gathered in the central square to watch the match despite rain.

The two sides must pick themselves up and dust themselves down after suffering the crushing disappointment of semi-final defeats to play for the modest prize of third place in a fixture often criticised as pointless.

Numerous photos show the players embracing Southgate.

"We were planning to leave, but now we have to stay until Monday", said Sinisa Pavlek, a Croatian living in Germany as he emerged from the stadium with a broad smile on his face. You see what's happening.

"Now is a time for us to be strong as a group and take the time to reflect on the performance a bit more over the next couple of days".

Even before his goal, Mandzukic had spent some minutes on the turf after a collision with England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and an agonising attack of cramp left him once again prone on the pitch in the wake of his decisive strike. "Croatia deserved to win", Mark Burcher, 50, said.

The Croatian Football Federation issued a press release where they announced that they have invited the 1998 team to Sunday's final.

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