Football

England striker Harry Kane: Semi-final run just the start

England skipper says it hurts that they blew a golden chance, but he sees brighter days ahead for them

Harry Kane says England restored pride during their run to the World Cup semi-finals and can use the tournament as a springboard for sustained success for a talented young generation.

Playing in their first World Cup semi-final for 28 years, England blew a golden opportunity to reach their first final since 1966, surrendering a 1-0 half-time lead to lose 2-1 to Croatia after extra-time in Moscow yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The tournament's top goalscorer with six goals, Kane himself missed a huge chance to give England breathing space in the first half.

But he believes even brighter days lie ahead for the third-youngest squad on show in Russia.

"It hurts now, but I know when we look back, there are a lot of positives, (a lot of) experience we can take. That's the aim, in two years in the Euros to go again and win big tournaments," said the Tottenham Hotspur striker.

"We've shown we can do well in these tournaments and the aim is now not to wait another 20-odd years to get to another big semi-final. It's to go again and try to achieve our dreams."

In their run to the last four, England re-engaged with a fanbase disaffected by decades of failure at international tournaments, most notably in a humiliating exit to Iceland at Euro 2016.

World Cup fever swept the nation back home and even after the defeat, thousands of England fans at the Luzhniki Stadium stayed behind long after the final whistle to give their side a rousing send-off.

"It's massive that we had a good tournament and restored pride in the nation. The fans are excited to watch us play and that's how we have to keep progressing," added Kane.

"We should be proud and hold our heads up high because we've come a long way from two years ago. Even out there, the fans singing after a defeat, it's a proud feeling."

PROUD SOUTHGATE

England manager Gareth Southgate told ITV that his team need to "suffer" their loss to Croatia and understand the opportunity they passed up before pondering the positives from their remarkable campaign.

"The dressing room is a really difficult place at the moment," he said.

"There will in time be positives to take, it's very hard now to put that into context, it's a bit too soon, really, because you have to suffer the result a little bit. Tonight was a wonderful opportunity for us and you can't guarantee that those opportunities will come again.

"We've proved to ourselves that is possible and we've proved to our country that it is possible.

"Now we have a new benchmark, a new level of expectation. Many of these players have come of age and I couldn't be prouder of them."

Looking not too far ahead, England face Belgium again tomorrow to play for the modest prize of third place in a fixture often criticised as pointless.

"It's not a game any team wants to play," said Southgate.

"Of course, we want to win, we'll be ready to go again because the team take great pride in their performances. It's a bit too early after that defeat to think about it."

His Belgian counterpart Roberto Martinez was similarly unenthused about the game after his side were beaten 1-0 by France on Tuesday.

"It's a difficult emotion to manage. You're disappointed because you lose the semi-final and it's very difficult to see the opportunity of playing another game as a positive," he said.

Even so, he said he would try to lift his team.

"We need to regroup and see the opportunity. To try to finish third in the World Cup doesn't happen often. The only time it happened in Belgian football was in 1986, when we finished fourth." - REUTERS

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