Roy Keane believes Croatia were worthy winners as England’s World Cup dream died in agonising fashion in Moscow.
England’s hopes of claiming a place in Sunday’s final against France faded as a second half goal from Ivan Perisic and an extra time winner from Mario Mandzukic left Gareth Southgate’s players shattered, with Keane suggesting the English agony should be laced with pride.
“It was just a step too far for them,” declared Keane. “The next step for England is the biggest step and the hardest step by far, to get to the World Cup final. The opportunity will there for them to win that game, but they were not good enough.
“You look at all these England players and most of them haven’t won a trophy. It is highly unlikely the first trophy in your career is going to be the World Cup. That is why is was always going to be difficult for them to go all the way.
“Croatia were better than them. England players and Gareth have shown a lot of class, but let’s give credit to the opposition. Croatia were like warriors and the reality is England were not quite good enough to take their opportunity.”
Keane was also critical of England skipper Harry Kane, as he suggested the Spurs striker looked off the pace as he laboured through most of the second half and extra time.
“I am a big fan of Harry Kane and I think he is going to be a superstar, but he just looked a big sluggish,” he stated. “The chances fell to him in the first half, but he wasn’t quite good enough.”
The Republic of Ireland assistant manager was also highly critical of John Stones, who was caught out for Mandzukic’s decisive extra time goal.
“We have seen it at Man City, he gets caught out ball watching and he was doing that again for the goal,” added Keane. “You are not going to get away with that in a World Cup semi-final.”
Meanwhile, England captain Kane struggled to hide his pain, as he admitted his team-mates failed to make the most of their chances to extend their adventure in Russia.
“It’s tough. We are gutted,” said Kane. “It was a 50/50 game and we will look back at stuff we could have done better. It hurts, it hurts a lot and will do for a while. We have gone further than most people thought we should and we have to try and learn from it.
“There are a lot of ifs and buts now. In these big games, it comes down to small margins and it went their way in the end.
“They played well and made it difficult for us, but this feels like a missed opportunity. We know we have done people proud by getting this far, but we wanted to go on and win it. That is why this hurts so much.
“We have shown that we can win knock-out games and get to semi-finals, so now we have to try and go one step further. We wanted to give the fans a final, but we have to dust ourselves down and go again in a couple of years.”