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Croatia beat England to reach first World Cup final


Croatia beat England to reach first World Cup final

Croatia yet again showed their magnificent resilience to come from behind and beat England 2-1 on Wednesday (Jul 11) as Mario Mandzukic’s extra-time goal sent them into their first World Cup final.

England's bid to reach a first World Cup final since 1966 came to an agonising end as they lost in extra time to Croatia in Moscow. Striker Mario Mandzukic scored the winning goal in the 109th minute of the semi-final, slotting in from Ivan Perisic's flick-on into the area.

Gareth Southgate's side - playing England's first semi-final since they were beaten on penalties by West Germany at Italia 90 - were given the perfect start through Kieran Trippier's 20-yard free-kick after only five minutes, but Perisic's 68th-minute equaliser sent the match into extra time.

England's players were inconsolable at the final whistle as the dream was snatched away and they can take great pride and credit from this World Cup - but the pain was etched on their faces as well as that of manager Southgate.

Croatia, in sharp contrast, were jubilant and will now face France in the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday (Jul 15).

Unfancied before the competition, England defied expectations by reaching the semi-finals, but were undone by an experienced Croatia side.

Harry Kane's golden touch deserted him when he missed a great chance to double their lead while Jesse Lingard also wasted a chance by shooting wide.

As England allowed their opportunity to slip from their grasp, Croatia grew in confidence.

England lost momentum after the break and were punished when Perisic stole in ahead of Kyle Walker for an athletic finish.

Croatia, with Luka Modric the orchestrator, took control as England faded, with Perisic hitting the post and Jordan Pickford saving magnificently from Mandzukic, before the striker made the decisive contribution with 11 minutes of extra time left.

The 32-year-old reacted quicker than John Stones in the area to beat Pickford - and England had nothing left to give.

England will now play Belgium in Saturday's third/fourth place play-off in Saint Petersburg.

The stats

* England have now been eliminated in four of their five semi-finals at major tournaments, losing each of the last four they have reached [Euro 1968 v Yugoslavia, World Cup 1990 v Germany, Euro 1996 v Germany and World Cup 2018 v Croatia].

* Croatia have qualified for their first World Cup final in their fifth appearance at the tournament.

* England have lost three competitive games against Croatia since the turn of the Millennium, more than any against any other nation.

* Mario Mandzukic's winning goal was the latest goal ever conceded by England in a World Cup match [108 minutes, three seconds].

* Kieran Trippier became the first player to score a direct free-kick for England at the World Cup since David Beckham in 2006 [against Ecuador].

* Ivan Perisic has been involved in 10 goals at major tournaments for Croatia (six goals, four assists), the joint-most, level with Davor Suker [nine goals, one assist].

* Trippier's goal after four minutes and 44 seconds was the fastest goal scored in a World Cup semi-final since 1958 [Vava after two minutes for Brazil v France].

* Croatia became the first team to play extra time in three consecutive World Cup matches since England in 1990.

* England scored nine goals from set pieces at the 2018 World Cup - the most by a team in a single World Cup tournament since 1966.

* Four of the five 2018 World Cup matches to go to extra time have involved either England or Croatia [the other was Spain v Russia].

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