Russia made an improbable run to the quarter-finals of the World Cup before being knocked out by Croatia.
That didn’t make their demise any less painful for their fans as they saw the hosts fall in heartbreaking fashion, losing in penalties with a berth in the semi-final on the line.
Russian supporters expressed how proud they were of their team, while also showing their sadness in falling short.
Check out the reaction from the fans in the video below.
Gareth Southgate believes togetherness and drive has been a winning combination for his eager squad, with even the Euro 2016 humiliation providing a platform as England reached the World Cup semi-finals.
Roy Hodgson’s men were humbled by Iceland two years ago, sending the national game into a tailspin that only worsened when new boss Sam Allardyce abruptly exited.
Yet there could be no safer pair of hands than Southgate, whose quiet revolution has been as rapid as it has been remarkable.
Just 21 months after taking the hotseat, initially on a temporary basis, England will face Croatia for a place in the World Cup final having beaten surprise package Sweden 2-0 in the quarter-finals in Samara.
“We are a team who are still improving” Southgate said. “We know where we are.
“We are having success because everybody is working so hard, everybody is working hard on the field.
“We are in this position because guys that are in the squad like (Gary) Cahill, (Phil) Jones, (Danny) Welbeck, (Nick) Pope, (Jack) Butland, (Danny) Rose, the older ones, have been exceptional in their mentality, their attitude to support the team, to train every day.
“Even though they’ve not had as much game-time as they would have liked, they are as much of a reason why we are where we are.
“I think that collective has been key. All of the support staff, all of the players are really tight. We’ve built that and to get through the two games we’ve had this week needed all of that because we’re not the finished article.
“We don’t have renowned world-class players yet, but lots of good young players who are showing on a world stage that they’re prepared to be brave with the ball, try to play the right way, have shown some mental resilience as well over the last few weeks.
“We know that in years to come, they are going to be stronger. But today was a huge opportunity for us and it was not something we wanted to miss out on.”
This group is tighter than previous generations in Southgate’s opinion, thanks to bonding in the development teams and an ability to put club rivalries aside.
Then there is the improved big-game experience, with the England boss thankful to predecessor Hodgson for being bold enough to give young talent a chance at Euro 2016.
“They didn’t have big-match experience and under pressure they suffered,” Southgate said.
“I think Roy took a lot of criticism for that, but he was brave enough to put a lot of these young players in – and without that experience, we wouldn’t have had a day like today because they’ve learned from that.
“With young players, you’re going to suffer at times. You’re going to have days when they’re not able to cope with things or adjust to things.
“And there’s no doubt that the experiences of two years ago have got a lot of these lads today – Dele (Alli), Eric (Dier), Harry (Kane), (Kyle) Walker – all on the pitch (in a better place).
“So they’re two years further on and we’ve benefited from that as well.”
It put England in good stead in Russia and the long term, too, albeit there are still hurdles to overcome.
Few know the pathways better than the Football Association’s former head of elite development and Under-21s manager, with Southgate believing better technical players are tempering the fact just 33 per cent of Premier League players are English.
“We’re in a World Cup semi-final – whether we’re in the top four in the world is something we would still have to prove, I think,” he said. “But, you know, we are progressing really well.
“We do have some good players, and they need opportunities to play.
“We’ve played some players – not just in this tournament but prior to that – who are very tender years in their careers, but we believe in them and we believe that they can play at a higher level.
“And hopefully with what our junior teams have been doing at international level as well, it will be a sign to all clubs that, whether it’s in England or abroad, that English players can play. That we have got players with super technique.
“I don’t think we would have seen the likes of (John) Stones and (Harry) Maguire playing in the way that they did in the past. English centre-backs bringing the ball out and playing with the composure from the back that they have.
“That for me is quite symbolic and why I joined the England FA five years ago because I believed that was possible.”
Croatia captain Luka Modric believes his side were destined to do it the hard way after beating hosts Russia 4-3 on penalties to book a place in the World Cup semi-finals against England.
Ivan Rakitic converted the decisive spot-kick after Mario Fernandes, who had netted an equaliser for Russia with five minutes of extra-time remaining to level the match at 2-2, hit his effort from 12 yards wide.
Denis Cheryshev had put Russia in front in the 31st minute with a superb strike – his fourth goal of the tournament – but that was cancelled out eight minutes later by Andrej Kramaric’s header.
In the 11th minute of extra-time Domagoj Vida nodded in, before Fernandes brought things level once again.
Croatia’s win sees them emulate their 1998 side by reaching the World Cup’s last four, and on Wednesday will face England at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium for a place in the final.
Modric said: “Our style was cramped a bit and maybe we did not want to risk with passes, so we had to balance it out in the second half.
“We dominated in extra-time and were the better team, we should have finished the job before penalties – but maybe it is written in the stars that we had to go through the extra drama.
“We had players go down injured, we hit the woodwork, had chances but did not convert them.
“After we went 2-1 ahead, we should have maintained our focus, but there was a lapse of concentration.
“At certain moments we lacked power, but we have played two matches of 120 minutes of football in six days, and of course this will leave a mark on you and you have to pay the toll for such exertions. Thank God we have shown our character.”
Modric knows there will be no easy ride against England at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
“We expect a very difficult and tough, tight, demanding match, every match at this World Cup is like that,” Modric said at a post-match press conference, broadcast via FIFATV.
“We have to enjoy the moment and tomorrow we have to prepare for England.
“We watched the game today and saw how good they are from dead-ball situations, so will have to focus more on defending set-pieces, because we conceded towards the end today from a set-piece and we will have to improve that element of our game.”
Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov felt his side had exceeded their expectations after coming into the tournament as the lowest-ranked nation.
“We feel like conscripts, when they come to just before they have done their two-year (national) service, like those a bit demoralised who wanted to stay in the army for some more time longer. It would have been better if we could have stayed (in the World Cup) to July 15,” Cherchesov said at a post-match press conference.
“There was not a single national team playing in this World Cup which had the complete trust of their country. If they trusted us or not, we trusted ourselves.
“We said we can only prove our worth by working hard – I believe not only did people start to trust us, but the entire country of Russia is in love with us, they know what the national team is worth.
“We hope we have turned this situation for the better.
“Let’s not be happy with what we have achieved and go ahead.”
Russia had fought their way through Group A as runners-up and then beat Spain in a penalty shoot-out before their journey came to an end against Croatia in Sochi.
Cherchesov added: “My players were very brave, tonight luck was against us, but in four years from now, let’s talk again.”