So we all know that England are not going to be in the World Cup final. So where did they fall short against Croatia?
At the back against Sweden, England looked assured and in control. Against Croatia, they started that way, and certainly in the first half I was very impressed with their tactics. Sitting back, taking the ball off the Croatian attackers and then playing a long ball up to Kane and Sterling and that caused the Croatians a lot of problems in the first half. In the second half, they seemed to lose confidence in this as Croatia began to keep players back whilst allowing Rebic, Perisic, Modric, Rakitic and Mandzukic to continue probing holes in the shaky English defence. That meant that England couldn’t create as many chances as in the first half. The Croatian equaliser was unfortunately coming with this change in tactics.
As the match went on, England became more and more tired, and with their game plan in tatters as they continued to be less and less creative upfront, it was a case of Croatia win or go to penalties, and unfortunately due to England’s defence going to sleep momentarily, Mandzukic was able to get just enough space to slot past Pickford.
So overall, where England fell short is that they lost confidence in the second half, became leggy, and became less creative in attack and more shaky at the back. That’s not a criticism of the team, because the tournament as a whole has been an enormous success and they deserve a lot of praise for the way Gareth Southgate and his men approached the tournament, but it is merely some observations and explanations as to why England were unable to get to their first final since 1966. Hopefully next time will be different.