A semi-final defeat at the hand of Croatia; England coming home. The trophy will not be with the England players. Before the tournament, the feeling was that Gareth Southgate had picked a team of young stars with passion, a young team without fear, a team ready to do a nation proud. With England coming home, third place play-off aside, how did the young players do in Russia?
England Coming Home
Jordan Pickford – 9
A brave pick from Southgate to put so much faith in the Everton keeper who, in the not too distance past, was keeping goal for Alfreton Town in Derbyshire. His saves were questioned after the Belgium game. He pushed balls back into play. Yet the strength in his wrists proved vital against Colombia and Sweden. His penalty save against Colombia was one of confidence. Against Croatia, he was assured again. A contender for England’s player of the tournament.
Kyle Walker – 6
Pacy and, at times, going forward he caused trouble for opponents. Walker has had questions asked over his defensive abilities and he did make errors. His positioning is questionable and was not one of the teams strongest players.
John Stones – 8
Strong, resilient and deserved his World Cup goals. At fault for Croatia’s winner but hadn’t put a foot wrong before that. Will only get better for club and Country.
Harry Maguire – 10
Sensational. A deserved goal and immense performances in each game. His maturity and confidence on the ball was incredible. The epitome of the Southgate team.
Ashley Young- 8
Perhaps a surprising selection. Young worked hard, tackled back and looked every bit as fit as his younger team mates. Will likely be his swan song for England but bows out with pride.
Dele Alli- 6
Scored the all important second goal against Sweden but he was disappointing overall. Clearly carrying an injury in the first group game against Tunisia. Never looked comfortable on the ball and didn’t hit the heights many expected. Much more to come in the future.
Jesse Lingard- 8
Showed at Manchester United in flashes the player he can be last season. Quick, thoughtful and able to score from distance. A certain star of the England team and a pivotal part of this England revolution.
Jordan Henderson- 7
A missed penalty couldn’t hide Henderson’s solid performances at the World Cup. He was perhaps the most consistent player in England’s midfield. At times too focused on backwards passing but consistent in every game. A quiet yet effective player. Still time for glory at the European Championships and maybe the next World Cup.
Kieran Trippier- 9
Going into the World Cup there was talk that Trippier wasn’t worthy of a starting place, yet he became England’s quiet hero. Passing and crossing compared to David Beckham was high praise indeed. His nerveless penalty against Colombia, a sensational free-kick against Croatia. Being taken off with an injury in the semi-final caused him and England pain. With this World Cup, Trippier has announced himself as a top-class player.
Raheem Sterling- 8
Divided opinion across the country. In the final third his passing and finishing was poor. But his pace and application made it difficult for defenders to cope and freed up space for the likes of Alli and Harry Kane. He will only improve and surely a key part of the future for England.
Harry Kane- 8
Still in place to win the golden boot. Showed steel and mental strength to score his penalties. Respected by his teammates. His work off the ball can get overlooked. Strength and passion mean that Kane will be a captain of this team for a long time. Epitomised Southgate’s Three Lions mentality. Not at his best and possibly not fully fit against Croatia.
Jamie Vardy- 6
Given a chance to shine against Belgium in a much-changed team for the final group game. Didn’t look to get the ball. Was carrying an injury, possibly, but when given time was disappointing. Hard to see him furthering his England career.
Marcus Rashford- 6
Not given as much game time as perhaps he should have been. Didn’t play well against Belgium. Another player with so much more to come. Will frighten defenders in coming tournaments for England.
Eric Dier- 6
Did okay but was lax in possession when he played. Still time for him to become an England regular.
Danny Welbeck- N/A
Only came on for a brief period and didn’t impress. Not a player likely to see too many more caps come his way.
England Coming Home
So it is over for England’s young team and manager. A World Cup that started with little hope has ended with being so close. England had a golden generation of Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney and they never saw those players show the passion and togetherness that has been seen in the last few weeks.
Whilst England come home after the third-place play-off, this has been a World Cup where football has come home. Passion, skill, desire and team spirit. If this team continues together, football has to come home.