Gareth Southgate already planning for Euro 2020 following England's World Cup exit

Gareth Southgate already planning for Euro 2020 following England's World Cup exit

But the mood was dampened by the heartbreaking extra-time loss to Croatia in midweek, with England now likely to make a low-key return following Saturday's third-place play-off against Belgium.

England arrived at this World Cup with the least experienced squad in terms of caps, but Southgate said the agony of losing was just as strong despite surpassing limited expectations.

7 - goals in the tournament's highest-scoring games, Belgium's 5-2 win over Tunisia and England's 6-1 rout of Panama in Group G and France's 4-3 win over Argentina in the last 16.

"It's enjoyable, we all love to play the game and fans love to support it".

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And with a bronze medal on offer after the game, Southgate wants to see his men continue to make history and what would be England's second-best World Cup performance since 1966. The players accepted the criticism they received, they took it on board and improved. "It's going to be very hard but I'm sure we'll find all the energy and the motivation we need".

While some have pointed out that the two nations will simply be having an unprecedented second completely unwanted game against each other, the England boss maintains that it is important. "We've set a standard in how we work and how we play and we want to aspire to that level every time we go out. We're a bit outside the top four or five, but I think we're competitive against all of those teams".

"The honest thing is it's not a game any team wants to play", Southgate admitted. "Those friendlies were a huge help so that now here we are about to play the final". We'll be well prepared because this is a one in a lifetime opportunity.

"So there's a lot of motivation for us and of course Belgium have beaten us once already, so we'd like to redress that as well".

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When I made a decision to play Croatia I followed my dreams. I'm sure that we'll recover and we'll be fine - this is the World Cup final and there are no excuses. "I wish him all the luck in the world".

"The reality is that none of us know if that's as good as it gets", Southgate answered.

Wednesday's audience peaked between 21:30-21:35 BST as England tried to find an equaliser at the end of extra time in the semi-final against Croatia. "It's the same as if you're at a big club". I hope on Sunday we can celebrate together.

"And I think we need to take full credit for that because we've changed that".

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