noscript image

Croatia come from behind to break English hearts and advance to their first World Cup final

Matt Morley by Matt Morley @rfutbol - 0 9,338

Pin Mandzukic's extra-time goal secured Croatia a historic final berth. AFP
Mandzukic's extra-time goal secured Croatia a historic final berth. AFP

Croatia come from behind to break English hearts and advance to their first World Cup final

Matt Morley by Matt Morley @rfutbol - 0 9,338

An extra-time winner from Mario Mandzukic completed a remakable comeback from Croatia in Wednesday night's World Cup semi-final as they dumped out England to reach the World Cup final for the first time in their history.

Both sets of players were hoping to make history in their respective countries, with Croatia knowing that a win would secure their best-ever tournament finish and England looking to reach only their second final in history.

It is fair to say that World Cup fever has taken over both countries in recent days, but it was back in Blighty where fans were dancing in the streets early on as England took the lead with just five minutes on the clock. 

Luka Modric tripped Dele Alli on the edge of the Croatia box and Kieran Trippier stepped up to curl the ensuing free-kick over the wall and into Danijel Subasic's top corner.

The Three Lions were by far the better side in the first half and went close as quarter-final hero Harry Maguire header Trippier's corner from the right narrowly wide.

At the other end, Ivan Perisic saw a low effort drop wide before England's dominance continued.

A wonderful move ended with Jesse Lingard slipping in Harry Kane. The leader in the race for the Golden Boot found himself in one-on-one but Subasic kept out his initial placed effort before a combination of goalkeeper and post denied Kane's follow-up from the narrowest of angles.

Lingard then curled a low effort wide after another nice England move, but Gareth Southgate's side were unable to cash in on their dominance with what would have been a deserved second.

England struggled to re-find their rhythm after the break as Croatia grew into the game. 

Perisic was a growing influence on proceedings and he was unfortunate to see a fierce drive blocked away by the chest of Kyle Walker.

The winger wasn't to be denied though and with 68 minutes on the clock he got his goal. 

Sime Vrsaljko, who was expected to miss the game due to a knee problem, swung in a cross from the right and Perisic snuck in on Kyle Walker's blind side to meet the delivery with a decidedly high-looking foot and guide the ball beyond Jordan Pickford and into the bottom corner.

England's desire to play out from the back almost got them into trouble on occasion and never moreso than with 72 minutes gone as they presented the ball to Perisic just outside the box. He proceeded to race past his man on the outside and look for the far corner, but his strike came back off the base of the post, with Ante Rebic's follow-up landing harmlessly in the hands of Pickford.

Lingard responded by dragging an effort across goal, but Croatia had their opponents on the ropes late on. Mario Mandzukic called Pickford into a routine save as he chested the ball down and took aim on the turn, before a weak punch from the England stopper landed at the feet of Perisic, who could only side-foot over.

With that, the game moved into extra time and there was drama at both ends as John Stones saw a header cleared off the line at one end, before Pickford made a stunning stop to prevent Mandzukic from converting Perisic's cross from the left at the other.

However, having been inches away form being England's hero, Stones became the villain with just 11 minutes to play as his error handed Croatia the winner.

The defender switched off completely after seeing off one wave of Croatia pressure, only for the ball to be headed back into the box, with Mandzukic ghosting in behind Stones to fire low past Pickford and send Croatia into their first ever World Cup final.

England will now take on Belgium in the third-place play-off on Saturday, with Croatia set for a final date with France in Moscow 24 hours later.

Matt Morley

Matt Morley

news 3,577 RANK 2
More news author

Follow BeSoccer on Facebook