Plenty to be positive about for England despite semi-final heartache.
England boss Gareth Southgate says his young side “came of age” after losing their World Cup semi-final against Croatia on Wednesday night (Croatia 7/4 – To win World Cup).
The Three Lions got off to the great start thanks to a perfectly executed free-kick from Kieran Trippier after just five minutes, and had further chances to increase their lead with Harry Kane and Jesse Lingard both missing good opportunities.
Croatia equalised through Ivan Perisic midway through the second half to take the game into extra time, where Mario Mandzukic got the winner to set up a final clash with France on Sunday.
Despite the obvious disappointment, Southgate was keen to focus on the positives from the tournament and look forward.
“There’ll be a new benchmark and level of expectation,” said Southgate. “To become a winning team there are hurdles you have to overcome – and we’ve surpassed many of them.
“Many of our players have come of age on the international stage.
“Tonight was a wonderful opportunity and you can’t guarantee they’ll come again. But equally we want to be a team who hit quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals. We’ve proved to ourselves and our country that’s possible.
“A lot of teams who go on to win trophies lose in quarter-finals or semi-finals first.”
England must now prepare to face Belgium in the third/fourth place play-off on Saturday – a game Southgate admits neither side will want to play.
However, pride is at stake and Southgate says they will do all they can to win the game (Belgium 13/10, Draw 13/5, England 21/10).
“We have two days to prepare. We will want to give a performance of huge pride,” Southgate added.
“Every time we wear the shirt we want to play well and win. It’s going to be a really difficult task. We’ve made such strides with our supporters and public that we want to continue to do that.”
Odds subject to change.