Pained but pragmatic, Southgate bursts with pride for Lions

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Asked what is was all about, a slightly bemused Southgate said: "That's exactly what I asked our fitness coach a well, 'What is that all about?'". The traditional greats of the handsome game, Brazil, Germany, Spain and Argentina have long since packed their bags and flown home but Croatia have lived to fight another day.

Supporters at Birmingham's Archway outdoor cinema screen broke into applause for Southgate's team within a minute of the final whistle.

England manager Gareth Southgate has taken much of the credit for moulding his young side, not only with a commitment to play attractive and attacking football on the field, but a fresh open attitude with fans and media off it.

"It was a good game. He made substitutions that didn't change the course of the match".

"In the first half, give them credit they did play relatively well, in the second half, bottle jobs". In extra-time nobody wanted to be substituted. "For the second goal, Mario [Mandzukic] was in the right place at the right time".

Croatia's dominance of the game grew as time wore on.

Gifted a relatively soft draw by the early exit of a number of traditional World Cup superpowers, England reached the semi-finals of a major tournament for the first time since Euro 1996, when Southgate was part of the team. The ESPN FC crew were impressed with Croatia's approach.

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Eric Amsalem, a 48-year-old Croatian fan with his face painted in the colours of the national flag said: "It's a small country. We have never won the World Cup so we can't say the same thing, can we?" he concluded.

'Albie was born on Friday and we were home that afternoon ready to watch England the following day!

"I think the reaction of the supporters to them at the end compared to two years ago tells them that, first and foremost, experiences with England can be positive, that the country are very proud of what they've done and the way that they've played".

"I would just walk out of the room".

Three Lions is on course to hit number one in the United Kingdom singles chart on Friday, confirms the Official Charts Company.

"There is no doubt the most accomplished side are in the final".

"Our country's been through some hard moments in terms of unity and football has the power to do that".

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