The other fairytale
It's not coming home.
The popular media in the lead-up to England's clash with Croatia rode the nostalgic sentiment of the Three Lions in their quest win a second World Cup and fulfil a thirty year old dream. Alas it was not to be.
Having broken their penalty shootout curse, the fanciful and fleet-footed sported a stylish white strip to take an early lead, courtesy of a masterclass in set pieces and a reminder of where the catch-cry 'bend it like Beckham' originated. As too often in this bizarro-world contest that has seen football's powerhouses falter, the tendency to adopt a defensive position ultimately proved to be the wrong tactical decision.
If you were to take two key insights away from this cycle of football, it's that you can't win games if you cannot score from open play; and regardless of your strategy, being flexible to counter the opponent's is a must. Staying true to the game plan has definitely not worked.
"One man's pain is another man's profit," lamented the commentator on an injury substitution, but this as a broader view from Croatia's rise is also true. As a relatively young country of twenty-something years, it is now contesting its first World Cup final. And while most punters may have resigned Croatia as a dark horse, few would have predicted the result.
For a country of just over four million, perhaps that's the greatest fairytale of them all.