English media reaction: ‘We lived the dream’
‘It was torture last night, it’s shattering this morning - but Gareth... We salute you’
England manager Gareth Southgate thanks the fans. Photograph: Getty Images
‘We lived the dream’, ‘Thank you’, ‘You did us proud’, ‘Pride of lions’. The English newspapers avoided going down the usual heroes to villains route following their team’s World Cup exit on Wednesday night. The glass half full mentality prevailed, with all of the front pages carrying very positive messages following their young team’s 2-1 defeat to Croatia.
With the draw having opened up for Gareth Southgate’s team in remarkable fashion - beating Tunisia, Panama, Colombia on penalties and Sweden to reach the last four for the first time in 28 years - Mario Mandžukic’s extra time goal ended the dream of reaching a first final since 1966. And with that, of football coming home.
‘Yes it all ended in tears. But they gave us pride - and brought the whole nation together’, read the Daily’s Mail’s front page alongside a picture of a bitterly disappointed Harry Kane. Their back page headline reads; “You’ve made us smile, made us proud, made us believe, every one of you a hero. No trophy this time but it feels like the start of something every Englishman could get used to. It was torture last night, it’s shattering this morning - but Gareth Southgate. We salute you.” Yes these are headlines (at least The Mirror kept it simple: ‘HEROES’).
England centre back John Stones, guilty of switching off for Croatia’s winner, was still immense according to Martin Keown. Oliver Holt commends Jordan Henderson, a leader and a rock he writes; “tournaments speed the evolution of football teams and some of the young men in this inexperienced side have emerged as fine leaders during the tournament.”
Daniel Taylor of the Guardian describes the defeat as, “like watching a beautiful painting being ripped up in front of your eyes.” He was in Moscow and summed things up nicely in his match report: “At the very least, Southgate and his players have helped redefine the way the England team are perceived around the world. New heroes have emerged, with a new respect and a new outlook. To see the England fans serenading the team, decorating this vast stadium with their flags and holding the players in such esteem, made it feel a trick of the imagination that the mood was close to mutiny not even a year ago.”
Jason Burt meanwhile provided analysis for the Telegraph, singling out the influence of Real Madrid’s Luka Modric for Croatia: “as all good players do, Modric eventually adjusted and dropped deeper and to his right to try and orchestrate the play. It meant he became more an issue for Alli to deal with than Henderson who had enough to handle plugging the gaps which began to emerge as the pressure grew and England’s composure dropped.”
Henry Winter, writing in The Times, had a message for the English team and fans; “The players will look through eyes blurred with tears at an opportunity missed, at a failure to maintain the momentum of the first half — but they should look at it this way: England are out of the World Cup, barring the painful, pointless trifle of a third-place play-off against Belgium on Saturday, but they are not out of the nation’s hearts.”
Amid all of the words of pride, building for the future, and Roy Keane’s failure to jump on their bandwagon - the Metro for one have kept it real with their front page headline: “A kick in the Balkans”. And it’s not too hard to figure out who they’re blaming for the painful defeat either. English captain and top goalscorer so far in the competition, Harry Kane gets a 3/10 in their player ratings. That’s more like the English media reaction we know and expect.