Croatia break English hearts, book World Cup final spot

Ross Houston
July 12, 2018

Mario Mandzukic scored in the 109th minute as Croatia came from behind to beat England 2-1 after extra time on Wednesday and reach its first World Cup final, where it will face France on Sunday and send the Balkan nation into raptures.

Lovren was taken off with just 31 minutes gone after struggling to contain the England striker, who had already struck one goal and set up another.

Gareth Southgate's team dominated the first half, and they had Croatia on the ropes for lengthy periods after Trippier's fifth-minute free kick had given England the lead.

Shooting towards the end of the Luzhniki Stadium where most of their fans were gathered, they equalised in the 68th minute, as Sime Vrsaljko crossed from the right and Perisic stole in front of the stooping Kyle Walker to score with his left foot.

Dalic said Sterling's speed and work alongside tournament top scorer Harry Kane is "really dangerous" and combatting it will be vital to slowing the Three Lions' attack.

"There's a lot we could have done better". Of course, it's not the same if you play two 90min matches and two 120min matches, but I still believe we have had ample time to recover and we are professional enough to know who needs what with what kind of recovery.

Josip Pivaric of Croatia celebrates his Fifa World Cup semifinal win over England.

"It hurts. I don't know what else to say".

"They underestimated Croatia tonight and that was a huge mistake".

"We experienced the extra time and penalties (against Colombia) and we know the physical and emotional effect of that", he said. The couple spent much of the day with Ireland's officials, including President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina Coyne, but they made time to meet with some of Ireland's rugby legends as well as dozens of young Gaelic footballers at Croke Park in Dublin.

What is not in doubt is their quality.

The much younger, faster and less tired looking England side continued to cause Croatia problems going forward and also doubled their lead but a great Danijel Subasic save kept it at 1-0.

World Cup Daily: Croatia's dream goes on while England wake up. And then on the game-winner, Mandzukic took advantage of a switched-off John Stones to get to the second ball from Perisic before finishing past Jordan Pickford. Croatia, however, still appears to be the underdog in its upcoming game against France, per Bleacher Report, on account of the team having narrowly escaped with a win in three straight extra-time matches, and because France has had a dominant World Cup run thus far, having trailed just once in the tournament.

"Mentally strong team", midfielder Ivan Rakatic said.

After a tense 120-minute match, Croatia scored a final goal kicking England out of this year's World Cup.

Defender Vrsaljko was also instrumental, clearing a shot off the line in the first half of extra time as well as setting up Perisic's equaliser.

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