Croatia outsmart England to land Historical Final
Croatia book a date with the world cup trophy for the very first time in History
Mario Mandzukic cushions the ball as Kyle Walker follows on in the second Semi-Final of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Croatia won 2-1. PHOTO | NESN.COM | COURTESY
England's World Cup dream came to a grounding halt after Croatia came from behind to beat them 2-1 after extra-time.
Kieran Trippier opened the scoresheet for the Three Lions early in the first half but goals from Ivan Perisic in the second half and Mario Mandzukic in the second part of extra time ensured that Croatia set up a clash with France in their first-ever World Cup final.
England who have waited for 52 years to reach the World Cup final had their efforts come to nought as they had to frantically look for a goal in the last seven minutes of extra time in vain. Even four added minutes couldn't bear fruit for the Three Lions who have already gone past everybody's expectations in Russia 2018.
England now exit the main trophy to set play-offs with Belgium whom they played in the preliminary stages to determine who takes the third place.
The Three Lions began the game in stunning fashion taking the lead just five minutes from kick-off through a Kieran Trippier free-kick of sublime quality. Croatia looked to have panicked after the early disorganization throwing good chances over the bar and wide to take away any threat from Jordan Pickford. For the next 62 minutes, England looked set to bring the 52-year long wait for a World Cup Final to an end and book a date with earlier finalists France.
That was not to be. Ivan Perisic met a sublime cross directing it past Jordan Pickford to ensure that his team drew level. The result remained the same at the full-time whistle.
The game spilt over to extra time where Croatia proved to be the better side. Zlatko Dalic's men were put in front by a Mario Mandzukic strike in the 109th minute. Mandzukic had threatened a number of times earlier in the game with no success but had to wait until the 109th minute to pull in that decider.
England continued to push on but the Croatia team solidified to deny them any chance of causing a significant upset. More pressure was put on England after they were forced to play with 10 men in the last six minutes, a situation that occurred after Kevin Trippier, their lone goal scorer picked up a groin injury that looked serious and had to be escorted out by the English medical team.
England will now face Belgium on Saturday in the first playoffs that will decide who takes the third place While Croatia who got a lot of motivation from their head of state, both in the stands and in the changing rooms, will face France in their first ever World Cup final in the history of the nation.
The closest Croatia have come to the world cup final was in 1998 when they reached the semi-finals in France but were relegated to the 3rd place playoffs by Brazil. Hosts France went ahead to win that World Cup 3-0 against Brazil.
Croatia reaching the World Cup Final is an astonishing achievement considering how small the country is. The last census estimated the population of Croatia to be around 4.2 million making it the smallest country to play in a World Cup Final after Uruguay in 1950.
England may be out, but Gareth Southgate and the Three Lions will be going back home as heroes. No one in this world expected them to get to this point. But tonight Croatia proved to be a better side