After England exit World Cup, UK papers salute 'Pride of Lions'
Disappointment went hand-in-hand with pride as the English media showered Gareth Southgate and his players with praise and sympathy on Thursday after their surprise World Cup run came to an agonising end at the semifinal stage against Croatia in Moscow.
Amid a couple of puns, there were plenty of kind words for Southgate in particular, as well as for the impact England's exploits had at home.
"End of the dream": A more downbeat message from the Guardian alongside an image of Southgate hugging Kyle Walker.
"The hurt goes on": Referencing the 52 years that England have gone since winning the World Cup, The Guardian sport section leads with the image of the moment Mario Mandzukic fired the winning goal beyond Jordan Pickford.
"A kick in the Balkans": The Metro references Croatia as England's tormentors with a pun but insists Southgate's men are "still our heroes."
The Daily Mail
"Yes, it all ended in tears. But they gave us pride -- and brought the whole nation together": The Mail uses its front page to focus on the impact England's success at the World Cup has had beyond the world of football.
"We salute you": It's pretty much a love letter from the Mail's sport section to Southgate and his team. "You've made us smile, made us proud, made us believe, every one of you a hero. No trophy this time but it feels like the start of something every Englishman could get used to."
"Heartbreak": The i Paper leads with an image of a dejected Harry Kane at the end of a semifinal that "started so well" only to end "in gut-wrenching despair" and concurs that England will "still return as heroes."
"All played out": Southgate hugs Pickford amid the mass of gloomy England players and staff, but the i Paper sport section leads on Kane's words rallying his teammates to use the experience as fuel for future tournaments.
The Daily Telegraph
"Pride of Lions": Southgate comforts Danny Rose at the final whistle as England are "defiant but defeated" by Croatia.
"Hold your heads high": The Telegraph focuses on the positives of England's run and Kane's insistence that "this is just the start."
The Daily Star
"You did us proud": The Star pays tribute to England's "brave lions," even though they came up short on a "night of raw emotion."
"Cro no": A slightly bizarre pun adorns the Star's back page alongside an image of Southgate consoling Pickford after England's "extra-time agony."
The Daily Express
"We lived the dream ... Thank you, England": A simple message of gratitude from the Express, accompanied by a picture of Southgate and his players showing their appreciation to the travelling supporters.
"Pride of Lions": A more defiant back page insists, "We're coming home but with heads held high" and "our time will come."
"They're coming home. With heads held high": The Times' back page leads on the image of a grimacing Kieran Trippier being helped off the field during extra time, stating that this England side will return "as heroes who have united the country and made the most sceptical of fans fall in love with the team again."
Tomorrow's cover of The Game pic.twitter.com/5QaBPFKb8u— Tom Clarke (@_TomClarke) July 11, 2018
"This is just the beginning": The Times highlights the youth of several key members of Southgate's squad on the cover of their supplement and strikes an upbeat tone for future tournaments.
"Heroes" There's plenty of sympathy in defeat from The Mirror, which offsets the image of Jamie Vardy and Dele Alli crouched on the turf at the final whistle with the message, "We're proud of you all."
"National treasures": The Mirror's back page is even more positive, insisting that "Southgate's brave Lions restore faith in the England dream despite agonising Moscow defeat."
"23 Lions": The Sun is keen to stress England's "pride despite the tears and agony" alongside an image of Southgate consoling Kane.