Given they arrived in Russian Federation as rank outsiders, however, Southgate was invited to detail the positives from a campaign that appears to have repaired the strained relationship between England and its team.
Asked how far he thought the still young England team could progress in the next World Cup, he said: "This far, if not the final".
Supporters at Birmingham's Archway outdoor cinema screen broke into applause for Southgate's team within a minute of the final whistle. Take this gathering in London's Hyde Park, where thousands came together to watch the game on large public outdoor screens.
England play Croatia Wednesday night at 7pm.
Joe predicted a 2-0 England win and said he believed the celebrations would be on a larger scale than in 1966 if England go on to win the trophy.
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Southgate said playing regularly in big matches was a key stage of development for his players and that the way they dropped away in the second half was perhaps a result of their inexperience. "That makes me proud". Croatia's population is just over four million and, of the 32 countries at the 2018 World Cup, only Panama, Uruguay and Iceland are home to fewer people.
"I took Liverpool to the final of the Champions League and now with my national team we are in the final".
"We were planning to leave, but now we have to stay until Monday", said Sinisa Pavlek, a Croatian living in Germany as he emerged from the stadium with a broad smile on his face. You don't get that reaction if you haven't played as well as you have.
The men's World Cup soccer tournament is down to the final two games. They needed a penalty shoot-out to see off Denmark in the last 16, though, after Modric had missed from the spot in extra time.
Scenes after the game were, perhaps unsurprisingly, more subdued than after the quarter-final win against Sweden.
"But you won't get a better chance than this to win the Word Cup".