Captain Kane failed to deliver vs Croatia
Gareth Southgate was in his usual match outfit, but the result on Wednesday did not go in England's favour. England had somehow seemed confident that they would be facing France on Sunday, in the World Cup final. They had really exceeded people's expectations as well as theirs to reach this far.
They were not altogether brilliant, but they came up with what was required , when it was required.
It was a rather young team, and they lost the moment they came up against a tough opponent - Belgium. That, however, did not matter much as both teams advanced to the knockout phase.
Croatia, it the semi-finals, was the second tough outing for England and they lost 1-2.
Entire England had their hope bolstered when Kieran Trippier scored in the 5th minute. Captain Harry Kane was brought down hear the Croatian penalty box.
The resultant free kick was a well-adjudged floater from Trippier that rested on the top right corner of the post.
One would have thought that such an early goal would herald some good football from England but it proved counterproductive.
England's game deteriorated and went from bad to poor and very poor.
In the attack, Harry Kane was non-existent. He had not played well in this tournament. He could not function within the framework of a team.
Neither did he show any individual brilliance, nor did he make anything happen for his team. As a captain, I thought he failed his team, but it was funny that he was allowed to do so all through the World Cup.
If I remember well, England came with many other strikers. I could not understand why Kane could not be substituted.
He had nothing positive to offer. Then there was Jordan Henderson, the Liverpool man at the midfield.
In the first half, he touched the ball just six times. He never won a ball cleanly and in the rare occasions he got the ball, he gave it right back to the opponent. If the centre of a team cannot hold, the peripheries will be starved.
And thus, Raheem Sterling was up against it.
The only English player with any kind of imagination, Sterling with his pace and ball control kept the Croatian defenders busy. But he did not get enough crosses.
Ashley Young looked as if he had eaten what three people would and could barely move his frame, Naturally his contributing was hardly tangible.
The workload so shifted to Trippier and he was even worse. After scoring such a beautiful goal, he and his game nosedived.
He could do nothing positive. Mispasses and bad crosses marked his game.
He never delivered any telling cross into the Croatian box. Jesse Lingard was busy doing nothing. He ran from pillar to post with nothing to show for his efforts.
How he featured in all England matches beggars belief.
Dele Alli tried, but half of time he was hobbling about and was of no use and that left the England back three - Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire and of course goalkeeper Jordan Pickford - to fend for themselves and keep their team afloat.
That was what the match degenerated into.
In all this, Southgate did nothing. He could have substituted Henderson knowing that the midfield was vital, But he chose to substitute the only player who was making an impact - Sterling.
I did not see any bravery in the Three Lions coach.
Croatia settled down and returned to their best period of the game - the second half. They scored two through Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic. I did not think Croatia could win, but I definitely believed that England did little to deserve victory.