Immaturity let young players down, but time
WHOEVER was in charge of the sound system at the Luzhniki Stadium had both a keen ear for pathos and sense of timing.
As the stands emptied and the victorious Croatians filtered down the tunnel, the last remaining pocket of England fans were treated to the strains of Don’t Look Back In Anger by Oasis, that other great bittersweet guitar anthem from the summer of rather than condemnatory.
The true measure of whether England is genuinely mature enough to accept defeat with good grace will be if the front of goodwill can hold.
Maturity as a person is the ability to recognise emotion without being enslaved by it. This, in many ways, was England’s greatest triumph in Russia. Footballing maturity, on the other hand, is something very different. It comes not with a sound upbringing and a benevolent culture, but only through long, hard years in the game.
But there’s a mental side to it, as well. Spotting an opponent who might be losing concentration, or a team-mate who seems just a little too excitable. Recognising when a game is turning against you, or when the tactical weather has changed, and adjusting accordingly.
Croatia had it. England didn’t. Croatia didn’t go on the blitz in search of an equaliser. They simply raised the temperature, increment by increment: kept passing the ball, kept asking