When asked post match how they were feeling, England captain Harry Kane uttered two words quite early during a TV interview that were blunt but brutally honest and yet so far from the truth: "We're tired."

Yes, the Three Lions would presumably have been physically and mentally spent but certainly nowhere near the exhaustion levels of the Croats who had emphatically come from 1-0 down in the fifth minute to win 2-1 in extra time of the Fifa World semifinal match at Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, yesterday.

The audacious Croats had replicated what they had done to the hosts in the quarter-finals but, mercifully, will extol the footballing gods for not letting it go to penalty kicks, although the vexatious types around the world would probably have relished the thought of Poms undergoing another baptism to ensure it wasn't a fluke against the Colombians.

While the TV cameras followed the morose Englishmen on the park, this party was about a republic at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, on the Adriatic Sea, after Ivan Perisic had equalised in the 86th minute and Mario Mandzukic had destroyed English souls in the 109th minute.


A stunning free kick goal from England defender Kieran Trippier had planted seeds of doubt in the minds of countless viewers in the fifth minute.

Croatia captain Luka Modric reportedly revealed at a post-match scrum the "disrespectful" English media and pundits were instrumental in fuelling their desire to prove to the world that you cannot write success.

After all, it takes something extra special to carve up three victories on the trot in extra time and penalty shootout, after trailing, of the knockout phase of the largest global team sport tournament.

As brutal as it may sound to the Three Lions faithful, those who have sobered up will agree England had no right to book a place against France at the same venue in a 3am kick off on Monday.

The English fans, more so than players, had entertained their counterparts globally but yesterday's fairytale script wasn't going to extend to any Battle of Waterloo headlines.

This tale was about sons of Viches — Modric, Rakitic, Kovacic, Subasic, Kalinic, Livakovic (take your pick) — all itching to show that when the body is begging for mercy the mind takes control on the whiff of passion.

The gallantry of the blokes in dark shirts after 123 minutes of battle led to even their children invading the field in their traditional red-and-white chequered shirts.

Croatia and England share the same tribal colours on the battlefield but someone forgot to tell the script writers who was destined to prevail.

The beer fest has well and truly shifted from Hyde Park, London, to the main square of the capital city of Zagreb.

Maybe in the build up and during the final, TV commentators and scribes who spent countless hours profiling England players and minute details of their meagre existence in the English Premier League (EPL) will now find warm-fuzzy stories on Croats.

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford (left) agonises on what-ifs as Croatian counterpart Danijel Subasic rejoices Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, yesterday. Photo/AP
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford (left) agonises on what-ifs as Croatian counterpart Danijel Subasic rejoices Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, yesterday. Photo/AP

A set piece drew first blood early yesterday for England but it wasn't going to be enough. Two shots on target at the end of extra time footy is a poor sales pitch.

Predictably Modric and Ivan Rakitic, as Hawke's Bay coach Grant Hastings forecast, showed why they are the best in the engine room at the tourney although they came across somewhat unconvincing in the first half.

The Croats had confronted referee Cuneyt Cakir, of Turkey, for the best of the first half but the Englishmen took over that department after the equaliser in the second spell.

Any crying and gnashing of the teeth to label the whistle blower a "turkey" who cost England the game is sour grapes in a tourney where gamesmanship was always a given.

It came to pass that forager Raheem Sterling, substituted three minutes after the equaliser, wasn't England's bugbear. If anything, a disappointing Kane should have been replaced early in the second half.

And yes, the golden-boot contender belongs to Brazilian Neymar's school of acting when push comes to shove.

No doubt, Kane will feel like Cinderella's stepsisters, Anastasia and Drizella, trying to force his foot into the glass slipper now.

The award will feel like mud-filled gumboots for someone who comes across as a TV-manufactured super hero in the mould of Wayne Rooney and David Beckham.

It seems when Croatia, Belgium and France feed the ball to their speedsters they encourage them to run at the opposition with pace and guile.

England, on the other hand, duck behind the bunker to urge Sterling and Dele Alli to open throttle in the hope of winning a set piece on counter attacks.

To steal Hastings' thoughts, a great midfield battle is looming between France's N'Golo Kante/Paul Pogba and Modric/Ratic in the final.

England fans' faces say it all at Hyde Park, London, after they lost to Croatia in the Fifa World Cup semifinal match in Moscow yesterday. Photo/AP
England fans' faces say it all at Hyde Park, London, after they lost to Croatia in the Fifa World Cup semifinal match in Moscow yesterday. Photo/AP

England surpassed their expectations in a draw from heaven and will be welcomed home like heroes.

They are beginning to enjoy the early dividends of investing in homegrown talent in an EPL where overpaid foreigners tend to push them to the benches.

Maybe "it'll be coming home" in the 2022 tourney in Qatar, easy draw aside, but the Poms won't be falling out of love with the beautiful game any time soon.

Coach Gareth Southgate's vests will sell and a beleaguered nation will take a rain check on knighthoods.

However, as betting agencies will confess, punters placing copious amounts of money on a team doesn't guarantee success. Other intangible variables do.

An inaudible sigh of relief can be heard from England's Rugby Football Union offices but, for the record, not even a Rugby World Cup crown will soothe that pain next year in Japan.

As England football showed, fairy tales are just that but who will dare tell Croatia not to dream about writing a final chapter in a robust Russia script against Les Bleus on Monday.