England players lacked a bit of nous, they can learn a lot from Luka Modric, writes Danny Murphy

Danny Murphy
Into the final: Luka Modric: AP

Gareth Southgate and this team have created a feel-good factor about English football that we have not had for a long time. That is a massive positive to take from this World Cup.

The public have fallen back in love with the national team and everybody would have taken a run to the semi-finals before the tournament started. Some may see it as a missed opportunity but we did as well as we could have done with the squad of players we have available.

And this team are capable of going on and being better because our quality players are all young enough, so we have a very bright future. We have a lot of players who some people did not really think were up to it and they have shown that they are — players such as Harry Maguire, Jordan Henderson and Kieran Trippier.

Those players now have an understanding of tournament football and positive experiences to take forward. They will be hurting about the way things ended but I do not think any of them are going to go away scarred. If anything, they will go away feeling positive about what they can achieve together.

England will learn from this tournament and the defeat last night. We have learned that you have to kill teams off and that sometimes you have got to be pragmatic at the highest level and know how to stifle a game when you are under pressure.

We have been knocked out by a team who have superb footballers who know how to control a game. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic play for Real Madrid and Barcelona for a reason. They manage the game so well and because they do not get flustered by the size of the occasion, they have more energy. And we maybe do not have that nous.

We looked a bit leggy in extra time. The whole thing looked like it had got too much for us and that could be because of our lack of experience. Keeping the ball means the other team have to work hard to stop you, whereas fatigue sets in when you are chasing the ball. When you are in control of the game you are running less, the ball is doing the work and you feel better. Modric (below), Rakitic and Ivan Perisic are calm in situations when most players are not calm and the way they controlled large parts of the game is something we can learn from.

We ran out of steam a bit last night. That is understandable because of the high-energy displays that got us to the semi-finals. Croatia had to play extra time twice, against Denmark and Russia, but they were in control of those two games and maybe they did not have to exert as much energy as we did against Colombia and Sweden.

I am not blaming fitness, though, because quality always shines through. Modric and Rakitic are two of the best midfielders in Europe, while Perisic was a real thorn in our side. Overall I do not think we were second best but we did not manage the game as well as we could have done. But let’s not deviate away from the fact we have come a long way in a short space of time.

And last night could have gone our way. If Harry Kane had made it 2-0, it would have made it comfortable for us. John Stones had one cleared off the line and Jesse Lingard had a chance on the edge of the box you would normally expect him to finish. We just did not have that bit of quality we needed to put them to bed.

There are moments we could have done better but we have to applaud the efforts of the England lads. We are all deflated after last night but the team have come a long way. And if we had players with that experience of Modric and Rakitic, then who knows? In the end we were undone by a lapse in concentration because of fatigue. But you learn from it. We are disappointed but overall there is a lot to be positive about. Of course, you will get people saying ‘we did not play any top teams’. But at Italia 90, we scraped through the group by beating Egypt and then just got past Belgium and Cameroon, and people still remember that as a wonderful tournament.

The experience of this World Cup is going to stand these lads in great stead for the European Championships in two years. And when you think about players such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joe Gomez and Harry Winks, who can come in and improve us, the future is bright.

Mix of flair and incredible work ethic gives France edge in final


I think France will have too much for Croatia in the final.

Croatia’s qualities are in midfield, with Modric, Rakitic and Perisic. But the midfield three for France of N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi, plus Kylian Mbappe, is equal to them, if not better.

And France are better in defence and attack. France have a pragmatic style but also this wonderful exuberance. Kante, Pogba, Matuidi and Mbappe can be an unbelievable attacking force and also a very rigid defensive unit.

Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud, their front two, became midfielders against Belgium. Their work ethic was incredible. I cannot remember seeing a better defensive display.

From what I saw in the semi-finals, I’d be shocked if Croatia turn France over.