England manager Gareth Southgate made his way up into the empty stands for a poignant and touching embrace with his wife Alison after his team’s agonising semi-final defeat to Croatia last night.
The touching moment comes as Southgate and his players are being called national heroes by supporters who thanked them for restoring the nation’s pride in its football team during the ‘best three weeks of our lives’.
Tearful stars including Jordan Pickford, Marcus Rashford, Kieran Trippier, Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker were comforted by their partners, parents and children after their extraordinary and unexpected World Cup adventure in Russia came to an end.
On the pitch their visibly emotional manager hugged every player, most of them in tears, as the 10,000-plus English fans in the stadium cheered them and sang ‘Three Lions’ and Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’.
This morning, many of the stars took to social media to explain that they were ‘heartbroken’ and left feeling ‘gutted’ after the side’s exit, while others praised Southgate for restoring pride in the national team.
Defender Kyle Walker called for England to ‘keep the unity alive, I love you’, as his teammate Marcus Rashford tweeted a photograph of himself with his manager with the caption ‘you’ve brought belief and the love of football back. Thank you boss from the whole nation’.
Last night’s defeat – watched by 26.5million people on ITV, making it the most watched event in Britain since the London Olympics in 2012 – left many supporters sobbing as England lost in extra time.