England captain Harry Kane said his teammates and himself are gutted following their 2-1 defeat to Croatia in the second semi-final of Fifa World Cup 2018 at the Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday, July 11.
Kane conceded England had sat deep after scoring the opening goal of the match and that they could have done better and been on the winning side in Moscow.
Nonetheless, the Tottenham Hotspur star reflected on the brighter side, saying his team can hold its heads high after exceeding expectations in Russia.
England squander early lead, exit tournament
Gareth Southgate's men were well on course to become the first English side to reach a World Cup final since 1990 when Kieran Trippier opened the scoring for them as early as in the fifth minute with a stunning free-kick from the edge of the box.
It was the 9th goal from a set-piece for England in the ongoing tournament and the Three Lions could have added to their tally in the first-half, given the number of chances they created in the first 45 minutes despite captain Kane having an off day.
Croatia played with more purpose after the break and Ivan Perisic's equaliser in the 68th minute swung the momentum in the Balkan nation's faovur.
Zlakto Dalic's men were the more dangerous side for the most part of the second half but England did well to keep it 1-1 and force an extra-time, which was Croatia's third straight in the tournament after their win over Denmark and Russia on penalties.
Just when it looked like there was going to be another penalty shootout in the tournament, Mario Mandzukic struck the decisive goal in the 109th minute of the match.
It hurts but we can hold our heads up high: Kane
"It's tough. We're gutted, you know. We worked so hard. The fans were amazing. It was a tough game, a 50-50 game. I'm sure there was stuff we could have done better, but we worked as hard as we could," Kane, who wasn't sharp enough to inspire England on Wednesday, said.
"We created some good chances, being 1-0 up. Maybe we dropped too deep at times. In big games, it's small margins. There's a lot we could have done better, but they played well," he added.
He added: "It hurts, it'll hurt for a while, but we can hold our heads up high. It was a fantastic journey, we got further than anyone thought we could, we've just got to learn from it.
"It's been great to get to this stage, but we wanted to go on and win it. But we've fallen a bit short. It just hurts. It shows we can win knockout games; the next stage is to go one further. We've got to dust ourselves down and go again in a couple of years."
England can certainly hold their heads high despite the poor show on Wednesday. Southgate deserves a lot of credit for assembling a young team and believing in it. The spirited team defied odds and got the football fans back home believe in them.
The Three Lions played with a lot of discipline throughout the tournament and found quite a few young heroes over the course of the last three weeks in Russia. Winning their first-ever World Cup penalty shootout (against Colombia in Round of 16) was certainly one of the highlights of their tournament.
They will now have a chance to finish the tournament on a high and avenge their group-stage defeat to Belgium when the two sides meet in Saturday's third-place match.