Over the next month, I'll be covering the World Cup for Tribalfootball. And along the way, I'd like to share with you some of my experiences and keep you up to date with all the action.
The real story
The talk coming from England after last night's game was all positive. 'They've come so far', 'everything has improved' and 'the nation can be proud of their team again'. While all of these statements may be true, at the end of the day, they blew a golden opportunity to make their first World Cup final since 1966. With their easy run to the final four, better opportunities may not come again for a long time. The positives will bear fruit in the future, but as I said yesterday, not making the final should be viewed as a disappointment.
The real story from the game was Croatia's performance. The Vatreni, filled with bravery, skill and class, blew away the notion - which I definitely bought into - that they'd tire by the end of the game after two consecutive penalty shootouts.
I think it was even more of a shock to the England players when Zlatko Dalic's men took over proceedings in the second half. Modric begun bossing the midfield, gliding across the park to pick up the ball while simultaneously disrupting England's shape. The Croatian players followed their captain's lead and claimed a deserved victory. Heading into Sunday's final, they should have every bit of confidence that they can beat France.
The atmosphere inside Luzhniki last night added to the enthralling contest on the pitch. Unlike in Saint Petersburg, both sets of fans were engaged for 120 minutes.
It was set up like a domestic game, the two different supporter groups opposite each other behind the goals. I'd heard from an English journalist working beside me that 5 to 7 thousand people had flown to support the Three Lions. It certainly felt the way, especially when compared to the poor turnout against Colombia.
It felt as though the football faction of the Barmy Army was in attendance, with the trumpeter and drummer providing the feel of day four of an Ashes test. The Croats were not to be undone, their voices heard loud and clear down the far end of the ground from where I was sitting.