While many awoke on Thursday morning still hurting from the pain of World Cup semi-final elimination , England fans have so many reasons to look forward with optimism.
From Jordan Pickford and Harry Maguire, to Kieran Trippier and Harry Kane, several stars have risen to the challenge in Russia, with many producing their best in the knockout stages.
After a battling last-gasp victory in their opener, the Three Lions hit Panama for six. In the last 16 the young squad ended England’s shootout curse before cruising past Sweden in the quarter-finals in straightforward style.
Wednesday’s semi-final against Croatia proved one hurdle too many for a team few expected to reach the latter stages, but again there were encouraging glimpses of battle and resilience from a national side which has cowered in knockout contests for so long.
Standard Sport’s Simon Johnson runs the rule over England’s World Cup heroes. Do you agree with his tournament ratings? Have your say with our ratings sliders below…
After his height was questioned by Thibaut Courtois, no-one can dispute how the Everton keeper grew in stature during the tournament. Pickford was outstanding in the knock-out stages, making key saves in every round, including our first-ever penalty shoot-out victory at a World Cup. His passing from the back was key too.
The Manchester City defender was picked out of position as a right sided centre half and can be satisfied overall with how he did. There were times when Walker was caught out from crosses into the box, but his pace also helped cut out the danger when team-mates couldn’t get back.
It’s unfortunate that Stones’ one big mistake here in Russia was the goal that Croatia scored to knock England out. He was a class act in central defence for the most part, making key tackles and passes out from the back. Personal highlight was surely his first England goal against Panama
Leicester face a tough battle to hang on to Maguire following a very impressive campaign. His level seemed to rise with each match, becoming more and more confident to bring the ball out. But his strength in the air was a menace in both penalty areas, as Sweden found out.
Just pips Henderson as England’s outstanding performer. His delivery from set pieces earned comparisons with David Beckham and was a major factor in the team’s threat from dead ball situations. Plus he scored a brilliant free kick last night. Arguably now one of the best right backs on the planet
No-one can dispute Young’s effort either, but he was consistently the biggest weakness defensively in Southgate’s set-up. Playing as a right-footed left back, the Manchester United man’s attacking prowess was limited as opponents grew used to him cutting inside to cross. At 33, surely his last outing at this level
Silenced the critics once and for all with consistently outstanding performances in England’s midfield. Not only did he work hard defensively, the Liverpool skipper provided one fine pass after another to launch attacks the other way. A real leader in the dressing room too. The only negative was a nagging hamstring problem.
Showed a lot of promise and who can forget that stunning effort against Panama which proved to be England’s finest goal? However, some of the creative spark deserted him in the latter stages and Lingard was guilty of a bad miss against Croatia that would have established a 2-0 lead.
Unlucky to suffer a thigh injury in the opening fixture which meant Alli never performed at his best. The Spurs star sat out two of the six games, yet came back to score a fine header against Sweden. Looked good for an hour last night and then lack of sharpness kicked in.
Came under fierce criticism from England fans on social media at times, much to the bemusement of Southgate and his team-mates. His pace was a constant threat to opposition defenders and worked tirelessly for the side. Sterling’s finishing though was a disappointment and it is significant how often he was substituted.
Seems harsh to give the potential Golden Boot winner a relatively low grade, however it could be argued that we didn’t see the best of Kane. He led the line with aplomb against Colombia, but there were too many occasions when he was on the periphery, most notably in the semi-final defeat.
Been a while since an England coach was popular with the fans, let alone have a ditty sung about them from the stands. But with a mixture of humour and careful planning, Southgate has won over an initially dubious support. Still needs to improve tactically, especially substitutions, but best man-manager since Terry Venables.
Rest of the squad
Deserves a higher mark than some of the displays merited simply because of that decisive penalty in the shoot-out win over Colombia in the last 16. A great character in the camp, yet had to play second fiddle to Henderson in midfield and that meant mostly cameos off the bench.
Have to feel some sympathy as surely would have been first choice left back had he played a full season at Tottenham. The 28-year-old looked good as a substitute and for the majority of his only start against Belgium. But Rose’s mistake led to defeat and any chance of superseding Young.
A disappointing outing for Vardy in what could be the 31-year-old’s last appearance at a major tournament. When on the pitch, the Leicester striker was barely noticeable as defences left him little room to use his pace. A groin injury sustained against Colombia meant he played just eight more minutes.
Made a fine cameo against Tunisia and but wasn’t able to repeat the feat when in the first XI for the only time versus Belgium. Remains highly-rated by Southgate and is likely to improve for the experience so one for the future. He will need regular football at club level though.
Capped a remarkable breakthrough season at Liverpool with a late call-up to the squad. The 19-year-old’s sole outing came against Belgium and he was arguably England’s best player in the first half before fading as the game fizzled out. Plenty of tournament football to come and will keep Trippier on his toes.
There was a lot of promise and little end product from the clearly talented 20-year-old forward. Helped change the opening game in England’s favour as a substitute against Tunisia and showed trickery to dribble past players throughout. However, Rashford never had enough composure to score as was seen against Belgium.
Was the last outfield player to be handed game-time when being introduced for the final 11 minutes against Belgium. Managed one threatening moment in that time, forcing Marouane Fellaini to block a left-foot shot that was heading into the bottom corner. Apart from that he was a rather ignored squad member.
Only featured in the much-changed team against Belgium, but Cahill’s quality still showed. His biggest moment was clearing the ball off the line from Michy Batshuayi after a rare mistake by Pickford. Provided useful competition for Harry Maguire, but equally important behind the scenes given lack of experience in the squad.
Another whose understudy role was confirmed by Southgate’s preference for Walker, Stones and Maguire as his centre-back trio. Performed adequately enough against Belgium without ever suggesting he would upset the established pecking order. Age is on his side to feature more in future, although could face competition from younger talent coming through.
Perhaps the mark is a little generous given his output on the pitch, but Southgate made a point of stressing just how key Delph was behind the scenes in generating a positive atmosphere. His commitment can’t be questioned given the midfielder flew back after the birth of his third child.