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World Cup 2018: Why England can be proud of their semi-final finish

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569   //    12 Jul 2018, 03:26 IST

Croatia v England - FIFA World Cup 2018 - Semi Final - Luzhniki Stadium

So, it's not coming home and no, there will be no knighthood for the England squad and the mannequin which they've lost will sting English fans. However, once the dust settles and the air clears, they will see that the positives from this World Cup outweigh the negatives.

Let's start with Gareth Southgate, a man who knows how it feels to be so close to a major tournament final but yet be so far. He was doubted by many and possibly his inexperience showed in the game against Croatia but he's young, has good ideas and has fostered the best team spirit England have ever seen in recent years.

Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United and Manchester City players have all gelled well and formed a bonhomie of some sort despite remaining huge rivals domestically. Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard testified to the fact that club loyalties broke up the golden generation and Southgate has ensured none of that came into play this time around.

This team has done a lot more than just reach a semi-final of a World Cup. They made the fans believe again, hope again and dream again. No England fan, in all honesty, would have predicted England to make the semi-finals of the World Cup after looking at the squad Southgate was taking but the boys have become men and the men have become lions.

This team had grit, fearlessness and a positive atmosphere about them which was unlike previous English teams. They won a penalty shootout - the first time that's ever happened for England in a World Cup - in dramatic fashion.

What England fans must remember is that this was among the youngest squads at the tournament and this is only the beginning. Euro 2020 and World Cup 2022 will be awaited with greater expectations than ever.

The likes of John Stones, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane will be in their prime years. I can't predict what will happen then or whether England will even come close to emulating this performance but there's hope now in the England fans.

Just two years ago, as the final whistle blew against Iceland, chants of "you're not fit to wear the shirt" were being sung by the English faithful. Cut to 2018 and England will be welcomed with warmth, chants and cheers; such is the impact that they have made.

There will be disappointment on losing to a fairly beatable opposition and some can argue England only made it so far only because they played fairly easy opponents but then the likes of Germany and Spain crumbled in the face of easy opposition. In tournament football, every win is well earned and worked hard for.

Football can be cruel sometimes but the Three Lions for once have lived up to their nickname. As the team takes the field for the final time on July 14th, they can keep their heads held high because they've done their job.

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