English Papers Hail Country's Heroes After Semifinal Loss
Morning After Headlines
After a month of "fever-pitch excitement and expectations exceeded at every game," England's World Cup 2018 journey "came to an emotional end" on Wednesday, according to Samantha Herbert of the London TELEGRAPH. But with a "young, promising squad" reaching the semifinals for the first time in "more years than many of them have been born" -- there is "lots to celebrate following the heartbreak." Thursday's front pages hailed England's players and rejoiced in a renewed national pride. The Telegraph wrote: "Hold your heads high." The London Times Sport wrote: "They're coming home. With heads held high." The Express Sport: "Pride of Lions." London Metro: "A kick in the Balkans." The London Daily Mirror: "National treasures." Guardian Sport: "The hurt goes on" (TELEGRAPH, 7/12). In Melbourne, Leo Schlink reported England's exit was "greeted with resignation and praise" by a reserved British media after Gareth Southgate's squad was "punted out of contention." The Sun led the way with: "You did us proud World Cup 2018: England OUT of tournament as Croatia score extra-time winner through Mario Mandzukic to break nation's hearts." The Mirror "followed a similar theme" with, "Four more years of hurt -- Three Lions heartbreak as England lose to Croatia in extra time." The Guardian invoked an art reference, "questioning whether England will ever win again." The newspaper said, "It was like watching a beautiful painting being ripped up in front of your eyes." It added, "England’s dream of making it to their first World Cup final for more than a quarter of a century was over and in those desolate moments after the final whistle, as the losing players wandered aimlessly around the pitch, almost zombie-like in their trance, it was impossible not to wonder whether there will be a lifetime of regret." The Telegraph was more optimistic, saying, "The glorious, beer-soaked Russian summer that changed English football and the England team forever is at an end, and the old story of 1966 will remain, for four more years at least, the greatest ever told, although it took one hell of a World Cup semi-final to keep it that way. England are out of Russia 2018, beaten in extra-time by Mario Mandzukic’s goal, but not in that feeble, unreliable way that so many England teams have gone in the past" (HERALD SUN, 7/11).
CROATIAN VIEW: In London, Aleksandar Holiga wrote a "wave of euphoria hit Croatia" after the national team defeated England 2-1 and, befitting the historic achievement, it was a "wave of epic proportions." The national broadcaster, HRT, started its post-match program with presenters and studio guests "jumping around and chanting," while Robert Prosinecki, a member of Croatia’s bronze-winning side in '98, said, "We murdered the English in the second half!" Josko Jelicic, Croatia’s "self-styled answer" to Gary Lineker, added, "They [England] have nothing to cry about -- they were knocked out by the future world champions. We played a mature game, the English were unbelievably inferior." The Vecernji list newspaper went with the headline, "We knocked the English down, Croatia are in the World Cup final!" Vecernji’s website "devoted an unusual amount of space to gloating over the fate of the losing team," with headlines such as "Football’s not coming home," "The arrogance hit them back" and "The English are sore losers." It even published a photo gallery titled "Look how the English cry after losing to Croatia," with pictures of "downbeat" players and fans (GUARDIAN, 7/12).
TOO SOON: REUTERS' Nick Mulvenney reported Southgate said that his team needs to "suffer" its loss to Croatia and understand the opportunity it passed up before "pondering the positives" from its remarkable campaign. Given England arrived in Russia as "rank outsiders," Southgate was "invited to detail the positives from a campaign." He said, "I think that's maybe something for a couple of days' time, at the moment we all feel the pain of this defeat. Did we expect to be in this position? I don't realistically think any of us did. But when you've got to this point and played as well as we have ... you want to take these opportunities in life" (REUTERS, 7/11). In London, Jack Wilson reported England's bid to reach the final "ended in heartbreak," but that did not stop Three Lions fans from "staying in the stadium for two hours after the game" -- long after the Croatian fans left -- to honor their heroes. Chants of "We're proud of you" were blasted out as the players lined up in an "almost transfixed glaze at the thousands of England fans filling the stadium." Some had paid more than £1,000 ($1,320) a ticket as England came "so close" to its first final in the competition since it won in '66 (EXPRESS, 7/12).