Another comeback performance by Croatia to beat England 2-1. They charged forward — brimming with the exuberance of youth — un-rattled by the opponents, unmindful of the weight of the nation's misfiring sporting chronicles. They charged with their sabers rattling; ready to be sacrificed in a quest for an age-defying victory that was never to come.
While this was no battlefield of the Balaclava, the English charge — fuelled by the dreams of an inexperienced team — fought toe-to-toe but was left undone by a Croatian challenge, succumbing to a 2-1 defeat after a grueling 120 minutes of football. It is not coming home after all.
In the consecrated grass of the Luzhniki Stadium, which will see the new world champion in four nights from now, it was a chance for the two teams to exorcise their semifinal demons. While Croatia's only last four run ended with a defeat to France — the host and eventual champion — in 1998, England’s 1990 semifinals started its penalty shootout heartbreaks – a hoodoo that had chased them for five senior international tournaments and 28 long years. The Three Lions finally won the game of nerves against Colombia in the last-16 of this World Cup.
Gareth Southgate, as expected, kept his faith on his players and tactics and his men fought like possessed even as Zlatko Dalic failed to get the best out of his two playmakers — Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic -- in the first half.
England was ahead by the fifth minute with Kieran Trippier bending one over the Croatian wall — much like a vintage David Beckham — and past a doomed Danijel Subasic after Luka Mordic had unnecessarily hacked Dele Alli just outside the box. Harry Maguire, confident post his first international goal the other night, was keen again to try his luck, but his header from a Alli corner harmlessly bounced wide. The attacking vim of this young English side, however, did its job as it left the older Croatians rattled, seemingly unable to find a way out.
Harry Kane — still the tournament’s top scorer — missed twice, failing first to beat Subasic from close range after a cute Jesse Lingard pass. The rebound, too, came his way but the post stood there to deny him the chance.
Faced with such repeated onslaught, Croatia’s collective game suffered with Modric and Rakitic — their two best players on paper — failing to exert little influence on the match. The duo, however, combined in the 32nd minute stringing an intricate labyrinth of passes that allowed Ante Rebic to try a left-footed curler from the top of the box. Jordan Pickford, though, easily gathered the strike.
With 10 second-half minutes flying by, Kane failed to connect his diving header after Tripper had sent in a low cross. Croatia, more determined, pressed hard, pushing the English midfield back and Ivan Perisic’s thundering right-footer in the 65th minute was kept out with Kylie Walker coming in the way as England scrambled to clear the second ball. The Croatian No. 4, though, soon had his reward when he high-toed the ball, over a crouching Walker, charting the course of a Sime Vrsaljko’s cross from the right. He was playing like a man possessed and in the 71st minute he barged inside the box to shoot across Pickford with only the post rebuffing his work.
With seven minutes of regulation time left, Mario Mandzukic missed his chance to put Croatia through as he hit his shot straight at Pickford after Brozovic did well to find him in the opponent’s box.
The winning goal finally came in the 109th minute and it was Mandzukic — after missing a few — who provided a cool finish with an irresistible low shot across Pickford when a tired England defence failed to clear a high ball.
It will be a France and Croatia final, with England left to lick its wounds and the possibility of a third spot when its takes on Belgium in the play-offs.Highlights
FT - Croatia beat England 2-1 to enter maiden World Cup final
Croatia reached the World Cup final for the first time after an extra-time goal from Mario Mandzukic gave them a 2-1 win over England in their semi-final on Wednesday.
120+4' - Free-kick for England. Last chance?
120+2' - Harry Maguire's long ball was calmly collected by Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic
120' - Four minutes added as stoppage time
120' - Croatia's Andrej Kramaric hit the side netting from the right
119' - Time is running out for England
118' - Substitution! Change for Croatia: Luka Modric is replaced by Milan Badelj
117' - Bad news for England: Kieran Trippier limped off the ground
116' - Corner for Croatia. Not much came off it
115' - Substitution! Change for Croatia: Mario Mandzukic is replaced by Vedran Corluka
112' - Substitution! Kyle Walker is replaced by Jamie Vardy
109' - GOAL! Mario Mandzukic put Croatia in the lead
Mandzukic scored from close range to put Croatia in the lead late in the extra time.
108' - Ivan Rakitic took a quick corner kick but Marcelo Brozovic shot it well wide of England goal
107' - Ivan Perisic won a corner for Croatia
Second half of extra time underway...
HT of extra time: It's still 1-1 in Moscow
105+2' - SAVE! Jordan Pickford deflected it out for Croatia corner and denied Mario Mandzukic
105' - Two minutes added as stoppage time
104' - England enjoyed better possession in the first half of extra time
101' - Substitution! Second change for Croatia: Ante Rebic is replaced by Andrej Kramaric
99' - SAVE! John Stones header was headed out from the goal line by Sime Vrsaljko. Kieran Trippier with the delivery from the set piece
98' - Eric Dier's long ranger was deflected out for an England corner
97' - Substitution! Third change for England: Jordan Henderson is replaced by Eric Dier
95' - Yellow Card! Croatia's Ante Rebic is booked for a foul on Danny Rose
94' - Substitution! First change for Croatia: Ivan Strinic is replaced by Josip Pivaric
93' - Dele Alli gave away the ball at the edge of the Croatia box
ET 1st half underway...
Extra-time Substitution: England's Ashley Young is replaced by Danny Rose
End of regulation time: It's 1-1 between Croatia and England. Extra time to follow
Croatia and England were level at 1-1 after 90 minutes in their semi-final after Croatia's Ivan Perisic scored in the 68th minute to cancel out Kieran Trippier's early free kick. Trippier curled the ball in after five minutes to get England off to a flying start but Croatia hit back when Perisic got in front of his marker to flick in a high cross from Sime Vrsaljko in the 68th minute. The match is going into extra time.
90+1' - Free-kick for England from the right flank. Kieran Trippier curled it into the middle but Harry Kane's header was well wide of the Croatia goal
90' - Three minutes added as stoppage time
88' - Free-kick for Croatia near their penalty area. The match looks heading towards extra time
83' - SAVE! Mario Mandzukic's attempt from a tight angle was palmed out by England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford
81' - Kieran Trippier's back pass almost cost England a goal. Ivan Perisic was on the prowl, John Stones avoided the disaster
77' - Harry Kane found Jesse Lingard on the right side of the Croatian area, but the Manchester United player's attempt went across the goal mouth
76' - England are struggling to stop constant waves of Croatian attacks.
74' - Substitution! First change for England: Raheem Sterling is replaced by Marcus Rashford
72' - MISSED! Ivan Perisic hit the far post from the left side of the England area. And on the rebound, Ante Rebic shot it straight to Jordan Pickford
68' - GOAL! Ivan Perisic scored the equaliser for Croatia
Sime Vrsaljko with a brilliant cross in from the right flank and Perisic beat Jordan Pickford with a high boot touch in front of Kyle Walker's head
67' - Harry Kane hit the side netting from a tight angle
65' - BLOCKED! Ivan Perisic's goal-bound shot was blocked out by England's Kyle Walker with his body. Walker needed some assistance to recover from the thunderous shot
61' - Ivan Rakitic attempted a half-volley from the edge of England box, but he mishit it and the ball went well wide of the goal
59' - Ante Rebic's cross in into England box was miscued for a Croatia corner. Then Luka Modric's delivery was punched out by Jordan Pickford
56' - Jesse Lingard's attempt from the edge of Croatia box was deflected out for an England corner. Kieran Trippier's delivery was cleared out
55' - Corner for Croatia. It ended with a free-kick for England for a foul inside the penalty area
54' - Yellow Card! Now England's Kyle Walker booked for blocking Croatia from tacking quick throw in
50' - Yellow Card! The booking was for Mario Mandzukic for showing dissent and not for Ante Rebic
48' - Yellow Card Cancelled! Croatia's Ante Rebic penalised for hitting Kyle Walker with his arm while vying for a header. But he was not booked
46' - Early attack from Croatia in the second half. Ante Rebic fumbled and gave away the ball inside the England box
Second half underway...
HT - England lead Croatia 1-0 at the halftime break
England led Croatia 1-0 at halftime in their World Cup semi-final after Kieran Trippier got them off to a flying start by scoring from a free kick after five minutes. Trippier curled the ball over the Croatia wall and into the top corner from the edge of the area. England looked much more dangerous throughout and missed a golden chance to go two goals ahead when Jesse Lingard, completely free on the edge of the penalty area, curled his shot wide.
45+1' - Somehow England cleared out the cross in by Luka Modric from a set piece
45' - One minute added as stoppage time
44' - England attack from the left flank, won a throw-in near the Croatia box
40' - Free-kick for England near their own area after Ashley Young was brought down by Ante Rebic from behind
36' - WIDE! Jese Lingard shot it wide of Croatia goal from the edge of the box. He received the ball from the left from Dele Alli. Good chance missed
33' - Ivan Perisic's shot was blocked out by Ashley Young for a Croatia corner. Nothing came off the set piece
31' - SAVE! This time it was the turn of England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to make the save. Ante Rebic with the long ranger
30' - SAVE! Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subasic denied Harry Kane from one-on-one situation. And from the rebound, Kane hit the post from tight angle
27' - Free-kick for England from the left. Dejan Lovren brought down by Raheem Sterling. Ashley Young's delivery was punched out by Danijel Subasic
25' - Good counter run from the right by Jesse Lingard, but his final pass was wayward and behind the charging Harry Kane and Dele Alli
22' - Raheem Sterling found himself with the ball at the top of the Croatia box, but it was good defending by the Croatians. Sterling was forced to release it for Harry Kane, who was caught off-side
21' - Free-kick for England at the half line for a foul on Harry Kane
19' - WIDE! Ivan Perisic's attempt from diatance went just wide of England goal
14' - Second corner for England. Kieron Trippier's delivery for the corner kick found Harry Maguire in the middle, but the England defender headed it wide of Croatia goal
12' - Corner for England. Ashley Young with the delivery from the set piece, but the ref whistled for a free-kick for Croatia
9' - Corner for Croatia. Luka Modric with the delivery but England cleared it out.
5' - GOAL! Kieran Trippier scored a free-kick to put England in the lead
WHAT A GOAL! England's new 'David Beckham' Trippier hit the back of the top right from the set piece. What a timing to score his first international goal. No chance for Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subasic
4' - Free-kick for England from a dangerous position. Luka Modric brought down Dele Alli just outside the Croatia area
3' - Mario Mandzukic penalised for a foul on Jordan Henderson
Here we go.... KICK-OFF TIME
*Time for National Anthems*
Danijel Subasic; Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic; Luka Modric (capt), Marcelo Brozovic, Ivan Rakitic; Ante Rebic, Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Perisic.
Zlatko Dalic (CRO)
England (3-5-2): Jordan Pickford; Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire; Kieran Trippier, Jesse Lingard, Jordan Henderson, Dele Alli, Ashley Young; Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane (capt). Coach: Gareth Southgate (ENG)
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (TUR)
England's starting line-up for their semi-final against Croatia remained unchanged for the third knockout match in a row, with coach Gareth Southgate sticking to his trusted 5-3-2 system. Captain Harry Kane, leading scorer in the tournament with six goals, will spearhead the attack alongside Raheem Sterling, who has not scored in more than 1,000 days for England, as they look to reach their first World Cup final in 52 years.
Croatia midfielder Luka Modric, set to start, will equal Dario Simic's national record of 11 appearances at World Cups. Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic brought in midfielder Marcelo Brozovic in place of forward Andrej Kramaric in an effort to control the pace of the game. Key defender Sime Vrsaljko was passed fit to start after recovering from a knee injury.
Hello and welcome to the live coverage of the second semi-final between Croatia and England. The match starts at 23:30 IST.