11/18/2018 9:37:46 PM

'It's a significant step': Southgate proud of England fightback

London: Gareth Southgate hailed England's maturity and resilience as Harry Kane fired his side into the Nations League semi-finals with a dramatic 2-1 win over Croatia on Sunday.

England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead against the run of play in the second half at Wembley.

But Southgate's vibrant young side pulled off a stirring escape act in the closing stages to gain a measure of revenge for their World Cup semi-final defeat against Croatia earlier this year.

Jesse Lingard came off the bench to poach England's equaliser and captain Kane was on hand to turn in the winner with five minutes left.

England's fightback took them to the top of Group A4, above Spain and relegated Croatia, and they can look forward to playing in the last four in June next year.

"I'm hugely proud. We've grown together. We've improved every step," Southgate said.

"This was another big occasion. There was plenty of pressure on the game but we coped really well.

"We had good chances and should have been ahead. Then we had to show resilience to stay in the game. We saw the game through with some maturity.

"They should be very proud of what they have done. This is a significant step for us."

It was a cathartic moment for England, who have made a habit of suffering painful defeats against Croatia, with this year's World Cup woe following the 2007 loss that cost them a place at Euro 2008.

More importantly, the performance provided further tangible proof that Southgate is building a team capable of challenging for the major prizes after years of under-achievement.

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