England will have to put their World Cup heartache aside as they prepare for their third-place play-off game against Belgium on Saturday.
The physically and emotionally drained Three Lions will travel to St Petersburg for the match following their semi-final defeat, which saw Croatia score in extra-time to win 2-1.
“The honest thing is it’s not a game any team wants to play in,” manager Gareth Southgate said.
“We have two days to prepare. We will want to give a performance of huge pride. There’s no question about that. It’s always there every time we wear the shirt of our national team, we want to play with pride, we want to play well and win.
“Of course it is going to be a really difficult task over the next 24 hours to assess everybody and to get everybody mentally back to where we want them for a game like that.
“But that will be the challenge. I think it is too easy to move on immediately from what we’ve just been through.
“But we will do that and we’ll make sure we are ready as a group to go again because the group have huge pride in their performances, in the way that they work.”
Kieran Trippier’s early free-kick goal had England dreaming of their first World Cup final since 1966, only for Ivan Perisic to level and Mario Mandzukic to strike in extra-time.
But the team’s performance over the past month – with a 6-1 trouncing of Panama, their first ever World Cup penalties win and first World Cup semi-final since 1990 – has seen them reconnect with a disillusioned fan base.
I’m still heartbroken and never felt so gutted. But there’s something I want to say. This past month, I’ve seen videos going around, photos been sent to me. That felt so good for us here in Russia, and united us more and more, just like it did in our country. pic.twitter.com/6pY10XaXZq
— Kyle Walker (@kylewalker2) July 12, 2018
Defender Kyle Walker tweeted that he had “never felt so gutted” but said he wanted people to remain positive.
“We might live in a time where sometimes it’s easier to be negative than positive, or to divide than to unite, but England: let’s keep this unity alive. I love you,” he added.
Captain Harry Kane tweeted: “It hurts a lot. It will hurt for a while. We can be proud and we’ll be back. Thanks for all your support. #ThreeLions #ENG #WorldCup”
ITV announced that the peak audience for the England match was 26.6 million people, an audience share of 84%.
Between kick-off and the final whistle the average audience was 24.3m – the highest average audience for a single game ever, according to ITV.