England manager Gareth Southgate said he couldn’t ask for more of his players after England fell to an extra-time defeat by Croatia in the World Cup semi-final on Wednesday.
The Three Lions were looking to reach a first World Cup final since 1966, but lost out after goals from Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic cancelled out Kieran Trippier’s early free-kick.
“I think in the first half we were really good and maybe we could have got another goal,” said Southgate.
“I can’t ask for more from the players. I think knockout football is about fine margins and when you have good spells against fine sides you need to take your chances.
“Tonight we weren’t quite there but we will learn from that. We left everything out there.”
“To become a winning team there are hurdles you have to overcame – and we’ve surpassed many of them.”
“Many of our players have come of age on the international stage.”
Southgate added that it was tough to console the players, but he was still proud as they had given it their all.
“It’s impossible to say anything to make the players feel better at this moment in time,” he said.
“We have to be proud of what we’ve achieved. I don’t think anyone could have given any more.
“Players had run out of steam but that’s partly their age – they’re still physically maturing. Croatia have hardened warriors whose understanding of big matches at times came to the fore.
“The players have to go through big matches and experiences to become a team that can win.
They have to use this experience for benefit