Photographer gets caught up in Croatia's celebration... and then receives a kiss

Gareth Southgate

REUTERSGareth Southgate has invited the player's families back into the camp

"After 1998 [when Croatia lost to France in the semifinals], this is the best team for Croatia at a World Cup, and I believe they will win in the final".

"We worked hard defensively, we needed to take advantage a bit more in the counter-attacks but congratulations to my players and my staff", he said, according to Reuters.

"In the first half, give them credit they did play relatively well, in the second half, bottle jobs".

Speaking to Sky News 22 years on, the ex-footballer said: "Football's coming home, I couldn't listen to it for 20 years, frankly". Had Southgate's players faced a Brazil, France, Uruguay or Portugal before this stage, they might not have made it so far because the lack of service to Harry Kane would really have told against such high-quality opposition.

But that didn't stop passionate Three Lions fans staying in the stadium for two hours after the game - long after the Croatian fans had left - to honour their heroes.

Supporters showed their colours in Red Square just a stones throw from Vladimir Putin's headquarters at the Kremlin ahead of the match against Croatia.

But defeat still stings for Gareth Southgate and his overachieving players. Few are as accomplished as Croatia, even when they are on the brink of exhaustion following two successive penalty shootouts, and as England ran out of ideas, Luka Modric was able to pick holes in their defensive lines time and again.

A deflated Kane said: "It's tough".

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"It hurts and it'll hurt for a while, but we can hold our heads up high".

'We should be proud of how well we did - we're all heartbroken but we can rebuild and do our best next time'. "We will go into this final to win it as we have still not gotten over the [2016] final".

"We adapt a bit the way we play against our opponents and this is to his credit".

"And they're just thinking, "we'll get behind these lads".

Now England have to pick themselves up to face Belgium in the third place play-off against Belgium in St Petersburg on Saturday.

He added: "It shows we can be up here, that we can win knockout games, can get to semi-finals and the next step is to go one step further".

Many fans had tears in their eyes and were too upset to talk after the final whistle - but other pockets of the crowd hid their sadness to applaud the Three Lions.

He said: "I just feel so disappointed".

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