13-07-2018

S4 SCORE with theSun JULY 13, 2018

S5

SCORE with theSun JULY 13, 2018

At least Englandavoid embarrassingFrench lesson

BROKEN HEARTS … English hearts were broken when thousands of supporters watched the Three Lions crash out of the World Cup. Hopes had already begun to fade before Croatia scored their winning goal and there were cries of agony when the ball hit the back of the net. As the final whistle killed off England’s hopes of reliving the glory of 1966, it finally became clear that football was not coming home!

‘CROATIAWERELIONS’ CROATIA played like lions to beat England and reach theWorld Cup final yesterday, striker Mario Mandzukic said after scoring the winning goal. “This is a miracle. Only great teams can be as brave as we were and fight back from a goal down against teams like England,” saidMandzukic. “We’ve played our hearts out throughout the tournament. I am happy with my performances so far but I am here for the team. We were like lions out there tonight and we will be the same in the final.” PERISICHAILS ‘DREAM’ GOAL IVAN PERISIC said his equaliser that helped Croatia come frombehind to beat England 2-1 after extra-time and reach theWorld Cup final

AS they sat on their haunches, heads bowed, all- white kit shimmering in the floodlights, the scene was reminiscent of the historic low in Nice two summers ago. But thiswas very different. BackthentheyhadjustbeenhumbledbyIceland and wanted the ground to swallow them up; this time the crowd wanted to swallow them up, pat themon the back and thank themfor the ride. They may have missed the opportunity of a lifetime, but in four morale-boosting weeks they had lifted a nation and restored faith in the England team. Nope,it’snotcominghome.Itwasnevercoming homewith this squad. For all thehopeand thehype, thefeelgoodfactorandremovalofthepenaltycurse, it simplywasn’t going tocome.Notwithout theball anyway. It was the old England failing – letting Croatia have too much of it in the second half. And once Luka Modric began to run the show, England lost their shape, their threat and eventually their lead. They just didn’t have amidfield. Jordan Henderson battled bravely but is not a creator. Nor are Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard. The latter two are essentially forwards who do a job of trackingback.NoneofthemarefittocarryModric’s jockstrap. Until England find someone who can, they will struggle. You cannot win a major prize without powerintheengineroom.EvenLiverpoolstruggled in theChampions League final but they aremaking upnowwithNabyKeita,Fabinho,probablyXherdan Shaqiri andperhaps evenNabil Fekir. And they already have Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain whose different but complementaryattributes havebeensorelymissed byEnglandtoo.Ifyouneedanymoreexamples,look atPepGuardiolawhoalwayshasajoblotofmidfield maestros on hand to shuffle all over the field, ball seemingly tied to their laces. ItwasEngland’sglaringomissionandoneGareth Southgate tried to compensate for by maximising set-pieces. Hedid so togreat effect. He unearthed a gem inKieranTrippier andmay even have opened the eyes of Mauricio Pochettino to the Tottenham full-back’s dead-ball potential. Trippier is not called the “Bury Beckham” for nothing and if England had reached the final, Bend

INSIDE WRITE by Bob Holmes

was a goal that “he could only dream of” as a child. “It was a very difficult game. We all know what was at stake and how important a semifinal is for a small country like Croatia,” said Perisic. “We started slowly, but we showed our character just as in the previous two knockout games when we were a goal down. We didn’t used to be that resilient. I would like to thank everyone who came to support us inMoscow and everyone back home in Croatia who are sending their incredible support to us.”

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itlikeTrippier might onedaybe showingat a screen near you. Almost all England’s goals at the World Cup came from set-pieces, the last, the free-kick by Trippierthebestofthelot.Butfromopenplaythere waspreciouslittlethreat.IfEnglandaretobeaforce at thenextEuros - anotherheaven-sent chancewith the semis and final all played at Wembley - they mustfindsomeonewhocankeeptheballandthread a pass through the eye of a needle. In Moscow, they should have put the game to bed before halftime, Harry Kane and Jesse Lingard both missing gilt-edged chances. Kane may have been carrying an injury but it’s thought that hewas played toput the frightenersonDejanLovren.Well, somethingdidandtheLiverpooldefenderwaslucky not to see red froma refereewhose leniency belied his fierce reputation. Croatia were a different side in the second half and made nonsense of the notion they would be knackeredafter their previous twogames hadgone toextra-time.Youhave tosalute this sideof fighters whohavenowsurpassedthefeatoftheirfabled1998 DavorSuker-inspiredpredecessorsthatreachedthe semifinals just a few years after the country came into existence. When England last reached the semis, Croatiawas still part of Yugoslavia. Croatia-Francemaynot have the ringof aclassic WorldCup final but there is the underdog element so neutrals may well go for the men in checkered shirts.Fromthisvantagepoint,theywillgiveFrance a sterner test thanEnglandwouldhave. To make sure the honeymoon isn’t wasted, Englandshoulddraftinoneortwomoreyoungsters from the side that won the U-20 World Cup. Phil FodenofManCitywasthePlayeroftheTournament but needs game time with City. He’s a playmaker too. Another forgotten starlet is Luke Shaw of ManchesterUnited. TheEngland left-backposition looked his for the takingwhen he joined in 2014 but a terrible injury and a manager (Jose Mourinho) who doesn’t rate him, have set him back. Jack Grealish of AstonVillamay also beworth a look. It will be fascinating to see if the pastmonth has any effect on the Premier League and perceptions about the game in general. It certainly needed to reconnectwithitsaudienceandmakeitselfmore human. But at the end of the day, as this column has been saying all along, England simply weren’t that good and lost to the first decent side they met. Croatia may well have saved them from a greater embarrassment – at the hands of a far superior France in the final.

Hurt sogood

often took so longon theball thatCroatia –playing at normal speed – were simply able to take it off them. That ability to pace themselves, to modulate that ticking metronome in their minds, has been part of England’s progress to this point. They took their time before stepping up for their penalties against Colombia. They weighted their passes just enough to commit opponents. Probably, they assumed it would all work just as well here. But under the twin assaults of creeping fatigue and extreme stress, England lost their internal rhythm, and never really got it back. The fallout will doubtless

In the end it didn’t matter that football didn’t come home, what mattered was that scintillating, month-long feeling that it might BY JONATHAN LIEW A ND with a rumble and a roar and a laser-guided swing of Mario Mandzukic’s boot, it was all over. The World Cup that England had earmarked as football’s homecoming ended crouched on their haunches, their shapes denting the Luzhniki turf. Party over. Lights on. Everybody out. England are coming home, but football – alas – looks like it will be staying in the taxi and going on somewhere else. England vsCroatia in theWorldCup semifinal was a game that everyone will have watched, but no twopeoplewill have seen in the sameway. The gazes are too numerous, the stakes too high, the emotions too deep. Every instant was splintered into a million different interpretations themoment it occurred, like light refracting or glass shattering. Perhaps when Ivan Perisic turned the ball in for Croatia’s equaliseryousawanastonishing feat of athleticism and agility. Or perhaps you saw a clear foul for a high foot. Perhaps when Mandzukic turned in Croatia’s winning goal you sawa sumptuous flickedheader, an outstanding finish under pressure. Or perhaps you simply saw the darkness stretching out in front of you, the loneliness, the desolation, the void. Four years, eight years, 52 years, who cares? In any case, itwill be a long time until either England or the English are on the crest of a wave like this again, and in the meantime we’ve all got work in themorning on a raging hangover. Itwas – above all – anextremelyweirdevening, the novel and surreal sensations all bleeding into eachother: the hope, the dread, the despair. That’s always been a part of football, of course, but somehow it’s never felt quite as blisteringly raw as this. After all, this is a nation who had collectively forgottenwhat a game this bighad felt like. In time, these sensations will be repackaged and fed back to us as commemorative DVDs and end-of-year reviews: a nation’s pain mediated by a rousing soundtrack, a thespian voiceover and wry observations. But those of us who saw it will remember it like the first time. So, how was it for you? What will you remember? Maybe you didn’t remember it at all. Maybe you didn’t see it at all. Maybe you missed KieranTrippier’s early freekick because youwere getting a round in. Maybe you couldn’t face the nailbiting finale and went out for a stroll. But from desk 74, seat B of the Luzhniki Stadium press box, it looked a lot like Englandhad aWorldCup final in the palms of their hands, andwere so transfixed by it that they forgot to close their fists. Psychologists tell us that high-stress situations affect our perception. Space contracts, time seems to slowdown, everymoment means everything. Thatmaybe one reasonwhyEngland’s passing was somuchmore disjointedyesterday than it has been elsewhere in the tournament, why they so

be l ong and seve r e . England’s attacking blossom shrivelled to a husk in the second half, their gameplan seemingly resembling a Swiss army knifewhere every devicewas a long ball into the channel. The missed chances in the first half – by Harry Kane most notably – will haunt themforweeks, perhaps years. But inmanyways, this is the point.

The shadows and shapes of this game, the colours and apparitions and reverberating noises, will staywithEngland’s players for the rest of their lives. Where’s the point in supplementing their burden? No, let’s remember the good times. Let’s rememberTrippier’s freekick.What ahit thatwas! Can you imagine the sheer joy of pulling off something like that in a game of this magnitude? Can you imagine what it was like in themiddle of that giant pile-on as Trippier was engulfed by delirious teammates?Of course you can, youwere probably engulfed in something similar yourself. Let’s remember Kane’s last-minute winner against Tunisia. Was that the moment you began to believe? Or was it the first half against Panama, when England did what they hadn’t done at an international tournament in at least a decade, and played like basic playground bullies? Let’s remember the penalty shoot-out against Colombia, the way they went toe-to-toe and refused to let up. Let’s remember how devastatingly enjoyable it all was to back an England teamwho – for once inour lives – felt like they represented the very best of us, rather than the veryworst of themselves. This, after all, iswhat football is all about – and if you’re new to all this, welcome! The fact that football didn’t come home wasn’t as relevant as the scintillating feeling that it just might. The fact that Englandmight not be inaposition like this again for many years shouldn’t detract from the achievement of being in this position, here. The fact that pre-season training has already started, and soon the summer’s euphoriawill give way to the falling leaves and familiar tribal rhythms of club football, doesn’t change the fact that for a month, these excellent young men reached into their bodies and souls, and gave us back our team. The years of hurt continue. But it was fun dreaming. – The Independent

JOSIPA PERISIC (Ivan Perisic)

When Jose Mourinho failed to sign Ivan Perisic last year, there was widespread disappointment at Manchester United for missing out on a dynamic, goalscoring winger. Little did they know that the Manchester WAG scene missed out big- time too – on his gorgeous other half. Lucky man Ivan met Josipa at high school and the couple have two kids. Josipa describes herself as a fulltime mother and keen traveller, but also finds the time to support her husband and is often

pictured at Inter Milan and Croatia matches. She’s now in Moscow hoping her husband can snare the biggest prize in football.

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