Surely youth would win out, especially with Croatia ragged from running a gantlet of two straight shootouts.
Fans let off flares in the streets and smoke filled the night sky, as Croatia celebrated the goal which took the national football team to the World Cup final for the first time in the country's history.
After 20 minutes of emotion on the pitch - where players barely said a word to each other while Southgate comforted each and every one - the England stars returned to the dressing room to rousing applause.
Asked what is was all about, a slightly bemused Southgate said: "That's exactly what I asked our fitness coach a well, 'What is that all about?'".
"Until they scored in the second half we were always under the cosh".
After Croatia stunned England in the second World Cup semifinal on Wednesday, we finally have the matchup that'll determine it all in 2018: France will face off against Croatia on Sunday.
The British Beer and Pub Association forecast that the number of pints bought would soar by 10 million during the game, many probably destined to be thrown in the air by delirious fans as in previous games - if England score.More news: Proof it's been the best World Cup
England, who made an early impression with a 6-1 crushing of Panama in the group stage, then overcame their shootout hoodoo in beating Colombia in the last 16 and looked composed and mature in the 2-0 quarter-final victory over Sweden.
England's devastated players could barely drag themselves off the turf as they slumped in front of their fans at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.
His friend Joe Carter, 43, from York, added: "We really thought it was going to be different - this was our chance".
The French have relied on the attacking brilliance of 19-year-old forward Kylian Mbappé while Croatia have depended on Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic to spearhead their attack. "I'm heartbroken. How long do we have to wait for the next chance?"
The Real Madrid midfielder, touted as a Golden Ball contender, is likely playing at his last World Cup, and Dalic is delighted to see him at his best.
Dozens of English soccer fans began heading for Moscow in a last-minute rush on Tuesday in an effort to be part of a potentially historic sporting moment as England take on Croatia in the World Cup semi-finals.
England must now rouse themselves for the finale of the third-placed play-off against Belgium in St Petersburg on Saturday.