England bask in World Cup glow as Russia suffer agonizing exit
MOSCOW – Agence France-Presse
Gareth Southgate’s young team swept Sweden aside 2-0, sparking scenes of unconfined joy in London and elsewhere as World Cup fever reached new heights with the country sweltering in a summer heatwave.
“The dream goes on! England in ecstasy,” trumpeted the Mail yesterday.
Leicester defender Harry Maguire headed England ahead in the first half and Tottenham’s Dele Alli added a second just before the hour as Southgate’s team enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in Samara.
Man-of-the-match Jordan Pickford made three outstanding saves to keep Sweden at bay, further burnishing a reputation that has grown throughout the tournament.
“It’s a great achievement for the team, we owed it to the fans back home who believed in us,” said Alli.
Captain Harry Kane, who leads the goalscoring charts in Russia with six strikes, failed to find the net for the first time but said confidence was high after England posted their best run at a major tournament since Euro ‘96.
“We’re buzzing. We know there is still a big game ahead, but we’re feeling really good,” he said.
Prince William, the president of the Football Association, praised Southgate’s men.
“You wanted to make history @England and you are doing just that,” he tweeted. “This has been an incredible #WorldCup run and we’ve enjoyed every minute. You deserve this moment - Football’s Coming Home!”
Russia the lowest-ranked nation at their own tournament - refused to die despite enjoying just 36 percent of possession against a superior Croatian team led by Luka Modric.
Croatia thought they had won the match when Domagoj Vida rose to nod in a corner in the first period of extra time but Mario Fernandes headed home from a free-kick to pull Russia level at 2-2.
The host nation, who beat Spain on penalties in the last 16, failed to convert two of their spot-kicks, leaving Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic with match point and he made no mistake, sealing a 4-3 win.
Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov lamented that fortune had not smiled on his side.
“Luck was against us,” Cherchesov said. “My guys feel like conscript soldiers whose term of service was over just when they were preparing to go into battle.
“They still want to fight that war.”
Croatia, who last reached the semis in 1998, now face the challenge of trying to recover in time to play England in Moscow on Wednesday after their second consecutive penalty shootout drained their players of energy.
But Modric said they would be ready to face Southgate’s men.
“We have enough time to rest and prepare well,” said the Real Madrid midfielder.
In the other semi-final, in Saint Petersburg on July 10 , Belgium, who conquered Neymar’s Brazil in the quarter-finals, take on France, who saw off Uruguay.