England fans left reeling after more World Cup heartbreak

Supporters up and down the country are asking the same question as the manager and players: What might have been? (Picture: AFP)

England fans are collectively reeling from the same old sucker punch which reliably comes around once every four years.

For a short while it looked like the route to the World Cup final was opening up for Gareth Southgate’s men and millions held their breath.

In the end, his wounded Lions limped off the pitch wondering what might have been.

Supporters across the country are thinking the same thing after 90 minutes in which England were arguably the better side.

Perhaps for the first time under this manager, England looked like they truly belonged at the very top and matched the world champions blow for blow.

And yet, it’s France heading for a semi-final on Wednesday night while England fans wonder if they can get a Morocco shirt delivered in time.

Among the gutted but far from despondent fans was Sir Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick when England won the World Cup final in 1966.

Fans who travelled to the Al Bayt Stadium were left in disbelief (Picture: Reuters)
Supporters at home packed out bars and venues across the country for the quarter final clash (Picture: PA)
For much of the game it looked like England might do it but it wasn’t to be (Picture: PA)

He tweeted: ‘Proud of every single player and the way they have played.

‘Sometimes the heart just doesn’t get what it wants on the night.”

The Prince of Wales was watching too. He wrote: ‘Gareth, Harry and the whole England squad and staff, gutted for all of you.

‘You put so much into this tournament and we are all so proud of you. Heads held high and on to the next one!’

Former England international Gary Lineker posted: ‘Heartbreaking once again, but no shame in losing to an excellent French team and congratulations to them.

‘There was so little to choose between the two sides. This fine young (England) team gave their all and will only get better. Their time will come.’

Newcastle legend and ex-England striker Alan Shearer perhaps got closest to summing up the overwhelming mood of fans across the country.

He said: ‘2 decent sides. A missed pen. Fine margins. S*** happens. Well done France.’

It’s the third tournament in a row in which England have advanced but fallen short (Picture: PA)
England came back from behind after a first half goal from the French (Picture: PA)
Gareth Southgate’s side managed to keep France quiet for much of the game (Picture: AFP)

In quality, tension and drama, the match had all the hallmarks of a final, even if it took place two games before the tournament decider.

England accomplished their main task of keeping French forward Kylian Mbappe quiet and young stars like Buyako Saka, Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice had their finest ever games in England shirts.

They fought their way back into the tie after being dealt a hammer blow against the run of play when a first half shot from outside the box by Real Madrid’s Aurélien Tchouaméni snuck in.

A Harry Kane penalty after a foul on Saka allowed England to draw deservedly level before they once again fell behind to an Olivier Giroud header, who capitalised on the first thing approaching a defensive lapse.

England were handed a lifeline when Mason Mount was barged over in the box and fans were already thinking of extra time when the captain stepped up to take the penalty.

Any remaining belief that this could be England’s year seemed to follow the ball over the bar, beyond the pitch and into the stands when it was blazed over by the usually reliable Kane and never quite returned. 

Fans were stunned into silence when Oliver Giroud powered a header past Jordan Pickford (Picture: Reuters)
A Harry Kane penalty miss all but extinguished any hope of another England comeback (Picture: LNP)
Supporters hoped for late drama with a Marcus Rashford free kick but it wasn’t to be (Picture: Reuters)

England huffed and puffed in the remaining minutes and supporters dutifully did the same but hope was fading fast.

A Marcus Rashford free kick in the dying seconds on the edge of the box provided the last measly scrap of hope of getting back into the game.

The stage was set, the script was written and you could hardly pick a more lovable lead to assume the role of the knight in shining armour. 

A good effort missed narrowly – like England, just – just – not quite good enough.

Manager, players and supporters alike will only have to wait 18 months for a chance at redemption and another shot at silverware.

Euro 2024 kicks off in Germany in 552 days and England gets to do it all over again.

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