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    Kyle Bainbridge: England pride restored at 2018 World Cup

    The World Cup has now drawn to a close. Defending Champions Germany were eliminated at the group stages. Other favourites Argentina, Spain & Portugal all fell early eliminated in the round of 16. And with minimal expectations, falling short in previous tournaments England bagged themselves a joint best finish on foreign soil with a 4th place finish breaking records, inspiring a generation and uniting a country to regain pride back into the national team along the way. 

    England started the tournament with a 2-1 win against Tunisia, Harry Kane bagging 2 goals in the game including a last minute winner to get England off to a winning start. 

    The Three Lions then recorded a record breaking 6-1 win against Panama in their second game, making it England’s highest ever win in a World Cup match. Harry Kane helping himself to a Hat-Trick, John Stones with 2 and Lingard scoring a belter from outside the box.

    As many people expected England faced Belgium in a match that would determine who would finish as group winners and who would finish runners-up to have the "easier route" to the final. With passage already secured for the last-16, both Belgium & England made multiple changes to their teams in a game that was seen as "Belgium B v England B" with Belgium running out 1-0 winners meaning England would have the "easier route" to the Final.

    England faced Colombia in the Round of 16. Harry Kane opened the scoring from the spot equalling Gary Linekers record of 6 goals in a single World Cup in 1986. England were pegged back in the last minute following a fantastic save from Jordan Pickford. After 120, the scores were level at 1-1 and the match would end up going to the dreaded penalty shootout, which England in 3 previous attempts had never won. England would end the curse securing a 4-3 shootout win, making it their First Ever World Cup Penalty Shootout Win & a First Knockout Victory since 2006. 

    Following their first ever World Cup penalty shootout win, England met Sweden in the Quarter-Final coming out as comfortable 2-0 winners with goals from Harry Maguire & Dele Alli. Jordan Pickford standing out as a key performer in this game, making crucial saves to keep his clean sheet in tact. It would mean that for the First time in 28 years, England would be playing in a World Cup Semi-Final.

    Gareth Southgate in his First ever major tournament as England manager joined Sir Alf Ramsey & Sir Bobby Robson as the only managers ever to guide an England team to a World Cup Semi-Final. 

    The nation was hooked, venues were packed in thousands to witness England v Croatia for a place in the World Cup Final. Kieran Trippier opened the scoring for England with a sublime Free-Kick inside 5 minutes, making it England’s 12th goal of the tournament breaking the previous record of 11 goals set by the 1966 winners for most goals in a single tournament, it was England’s game to lose. But following a strong first half which could of seen England 3-0 up, they took their foot off the pedal allowing Croatia to get level in the second half. Mario Mandzukic scored a second half extra time winner to break all England hearts losing 2-1.

    After the heart break of the Semi-Final, England would have to battle it out with Group rivals Belgium for the consolation prize of 3rd place, a possible best ever finish for England on foreign soil. Belgium ran out 2-0 winners and England would record a Joint Best finish of 4th place in a World Cup on foreign soil matching the accomplishment from them in 1990. 

    Following the disappointment of previous tournaments, Euro 2016 eliminated by Iceland. World Cup 2014 failure to win a single group game. There was no expectations on this young inexperienced team, criticised before a ball was kicked. Southgate was mocked for his selection but he had faith in this team. They certainly done us proud, from being a laughing stock and criticised before the ball was even kicked to a team who got fans feeling optimistic and dreaming of ridding those years of hurt. In previous tournaments, never would you imagine seeing venues all over the country packed out in thousands cheering England on. Even though it ended in heartbreak we can surely look forward to the future and regain the pride of our national team. 

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