Gareth Southgate got his tactics and substitutions wrong in England's World Cup semifinal defeat to Croatia, according to ESPN FC pundits Craig Burley and Stuart Robson.
England were 1-0 up at half-time, heading toward their first World Cup final since 1966, but went on to lose 2-1 in extra time. In defeat, Southgate's side became the first team to lose a World Cup semifinal after leading at half-time.
"I was surprised by England's substitutions," Burley said. "They were like-for-like. It was a striker for a striker, a wing-back for a wing-back, a holding midfielder for a holding midfielder, and it didn't change the dynamic of the game. The personnel changes didn't alter the shape, so therefore didn't alter Croatia's dominance of the game."
"It is a major blow for Southgate," Robson said. "He didn't do anything to change it whereas [Croatia manager Zlatko] Dalic got all of his tactical changes right. He was the dominant coach in that game today.
"Southgate has proved at this tournament that he's a good manager in terms of getting the spirit right, managing the players and being calm and composed. But it is a massive difference to being a good understander of the game and being a good tactician.
"We were screaming at the telly that he had to change the system. He didn't read the game. He made substitutions that didn't change the course of the match."
Marcus Rashford was Southgate's first substitute, coming on for Raheem Sterling shortly after Ivan Perisic's equaliser. In extra time Danny Rose came on for Ashley Young and Eric Dier swapped with Jordan Henderson. Following Mario Mandzukic's 109th-minute winner, Southgate used his final change to bring on striker Jamie Vardy in place of defender Kyle Walker.
Croatia's dominance of the game grew as time wore on. Each of their three knockout matches have now gone to extra time, meaning they'll have played 90 more minutes than France going into Sunday's final. The ESPN FC crew were impressed with Croatia's approach.
"You have to give credit to Croatia and Dalic," Robson said. "He was brave to start with and said to his two wide players to stay up the field with Mandzukic. Tripper had the freedom of the park in the first half, but as the game wore on they forced England back, they forced Tripper back and they forced Young back.
"That enabled Croatia to dominate that midfield area and get their full-backs into play, they were creating 2-v-1s in wide areas."
"Three things disappointed me from England today," Burley concluded. "One, the lack of flexibility to the Croatian tactics, two, the changes Gareth made and three -- and it was the most disappointing thing -- how many times they hoofed the ball up the field. At times it was like going back to the pre-Premier League era of the 1980s.
"There is no doubt the most accomplished side are in the final. Croatia and their players and manager are tactically more astute at the moment to big game football. It's been a great run for England, but I think that's where they came a cropper today."