England Coach, Gareth Southgate, insisted Saturday he was proud of the fourth place finish of the Three Lions despite losing the bronze medal of the 2018 World Cup in Russia to Belgium at the St Petersburg Stadium.
Speaking at the Post Match Conference, the former England player said: “In the end we are very proud of what we’ve done. We’re under no illusions as to where we stand as a team; we’ve finished in the final four but we’re not a top-four team yet, we know that and we’ve never hidden behind that.
He admitted that the Three Lions played against some of the best teams of Russia 2018.
“Against the very best teams we’ve come up short but we’ve had a wonderful adventure and some experiences that will stand this group of players and staff in really good stead for the future.
“I couldn’t ask any more of any of the players today or right the way through the seven weeks we’ve worked together,” concludes Southgate who had hoped to emulate the Three Lions of 1966 by winning the trophy for England in Russia.
His Belgian counterpart, Roberto Martinez, admitted that after his team missed the final with the 0-1 defeat the Red Devils suffered against France, they worked extra hard to win the bronze as consolation to his star-studded team.
“We wanted to win it. When you beat Brazil and get into the semi-final, the focus has to be to try to win the World Cup. But you need to be realistic when you finish the tournament and look back. These players made history back in Belgium and that’s all that matters. These players deserve to have that accolade.
Martinez stressed that this generation of players have lifted the bar beyond those who set the benchmark for the country at Mexico ’86.
“The generation of Mexico ’86 set a real inspiration and real vision for all the footballers in Belgium. Now this group of players overcame that and that’s historic; it took 32 years to be able to be in this position, so there’s real satisfaction and real success.
“It’s the manner we achieved that – the football we played is Belgian football, it’s our brand. And the togetherness and flexibility we had tactically shows what we want to be as a footballing nation.
“It has been a really nice journey, a really successful journey but in football you need to look forward and try to improve in the next opportunity that we have.”
Also speaking on the game, England Captain, Harry Kane, said: “In the second half we played really well. We had them on the ropes for the first half-hour of that and we just couldn’t get a goal.
“We had one cleared off the line and we put the pressure on. But the lads couldn’t give any more, it has been a tough tournament. Belgium is obviously a good team. I can’t fault the lads, we gave it everything.”
With Saturday’s win, Belgium has become the fourth side to win six games at a World Cup but not lift the trophy (penalty shootouts counted as draws) – after Poland (1974, third), Italy (1990, third) and Netherlands (2010, runners-up).
Belgium claimed the third place at Russia 2018 with goals in either half from Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard forcing England to settle for fourth.
Expectedly, Eden Hazard was voted Budweiser Man of the Match. He has been involved in 25 goals (12 goals, 13 assists) in his past 25 Belgium appearances.