(Persia Digest) - According to The Sun, Those 22 minutes are eating away at him.

Yesterday at 4am, sat bolt upright in bed at England’s Repino hotel, Gareth Southgate put himself through the torture of the World Cup semi-final against Croatia.

It could have been us playing against France tomorrow in the Luzhniki Stadium.

Instead, it is them.

Ivan Perisic, who scored Croatia’s 68th-minute equaliser, and match-winner Mario Mandzukic saw to that.

England’s head coach, preparing his players for today’s third-place play-off against Belgium, confessed: “It has been testing for me.

The reality is that England are not ready to play in a World Cup final yet.

Southgate, 47, has earned some time off, the chance to recharge the batteries after a quick debrief at St George’s Park next week. There is some planning on the horizon with a training camp looming to prepare for Nations League openers against Spain and Switzerland in early September.

When he finally gets to spend some time with his family, it will surely be impossible to switch off after an adventure like this.

He added: “We’ve got matches to prepare for and camps to prepare for, so we need to get the preparation stuff done next week.

“Then I can go away . . . and think about football for another couple of weeks while I am away.”

Today he is thinking about Belgium, desperate for his players to be on the presentation stage in St Petersburg with bronze medals dangling round their necks.

England were beaten to third place by Italy in 1990, losing 2-1 in Bari when Toto Schillaci scored a penalty four minutes from time.

They get a free swing at a gong this afternoon with the challenge for Southgate and England to conquer one of the big guns in tournament conditions.

Belgium, who beat England 1-0 in the final Group G game way back on June 28, want to finish their campaign on a high.

But Southgate also added: “We’ve got to finish well. When you get close to success it drives you more because you can see things are possible.

“We want to be in the games that matter and I want to be winning things where possible.”

Southgate was asked if he feared that would never happen, that this World Cup would be as good as it got for his England team.

But he said: “I’m not afraid of anything . . . I’m not even afraid of the Big Bad Wolf!”

England will have new targets soon enough with Uefa Nations League matches, Euro 2020 qualifiers and then another crack at the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 on the way. Southgate will oversee all of that, taking responsibility for tournament performances over the next few years.

Euro 2020 is pretty much on home soil with 11 games being shared between London and Glasgow. The semi-finals and final are at Wembley.

Southgate added: “It’s going to be brilliant. The players are going to experience a tournament as close to what we experienced in 1996 and in 1966. That’s incredible for everybody.

“We saw what the Olympics was like. We’ll have the players inspired by what’s happened over the last few weeks. They can see the possible impact.

“We did talk to them about that before but I think it was hard for them to really get it because most of them weren’t born in 1990 and too young for Euro 96.”

The immediate target is to beat Belgium today then return to their Repino training base for a party with friends and family to celebrate a decent World Cup.

Southgate added: “When you are away at a tournament, we’ve got to enjoy it. This group of people will never be together again. That’s the reality.

“Players and staff change for whatever reasons. That’s why you’ve got to enjoy those moments.”

Even then, those 22 minutes will still hurt like hell.

* captcha:
* Comment: