— 13 Jul 2018 by Lauren Furey
And just like that England's World Cup journey draws to a close, but what a journey it was.
For the first time in 28 years we had an England team that let us dare to dream that we might have a shot at World Cup glory. A team whose passion, skill and determination saw us fly though the group stages, into the knockout and quarter final and on towards the semi final match against Croatia.
National pride soared throughout the country as cries of "it's coming home!" rang out in offices, pubs, school playgrounds and across social media. The match itself was electric. It seemed that England's road to the final was paved when Kieran Trippier, just five minutes into the game, planted a beautiful free kick into the back of the net from 20 yards! The confidence surged and England dominated the first half but, sadly, it was short lived. Croatia posed a real danger to England in the second half and in the 68th minute Perisic managed to equalise.
We hung our heads in disbelief at the thought of extra time or, worse, penalties.
But in the 109th minute Mario Mandzukic scored what would be the winning goal as England tried and failed to secure their place in the final. It was undoubtedly a valiant effort and the boys can certainly hold their heads high. England may have bowed out of the tournament but they did so with dignity.
Did any of us expect England to reach the finals? No, of course we didn't. We didn't expect England to make it out of the group stages, but they did; they defied expectations for a nation who had become quietly resigned to defeat. You would have to be around 35+ to really member our last successful World Cup campaign in 1990, so for many this was truly a unique moment.
Harry Kane posted an emotional tribute on Instagram following England's World Cup defeat:
A lot of emotions today. First of all, I'm so proud of this team and staff for giving everything we could over a long period of time together. We have overcome so many challenges that have haunted England in the past. We have reconnected with our amazing supporters and have enjoyed this amazing experience together. It wasn't the outcome we wanted and, as painful as it is right now, I'm sure we will learn an awful lot from last night's game. It's time now to hold our heads high as a nation and be proud of each other. I'm excited to be part of this team and the challenge to improve going forward. Thank you all for you support.
Well said Harry.
England will face Belgium on Saturday to see who finishes fourth and third in the 2018 World Cup. So let's all band together and show them all the love and support they've earned from their fans. Football didn't come home but Gareth Southgate and his team united the country and gave us something truly special.