2-1! Croatia Beat England, For France FIFA World Cup Final

by Samuel Abasi Posted on July 11th, 2018

Croatia will play France in the final in Moscow on Sunday after beating England 2-1 in the semifinals on Wednesday at the same Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. England and Belgium will contest the third place play-off on Saturday at St. Petersburg.

Trippier opened scoring for England with a free kick after five minutes. Kieran Trippier curled the ball over the Croatian wall and into the net in the fifth minute after Dele Alli was tripped by Modric on the edge of the box on a clever build-up play by Jesse Lingard.

England could have scored a second when Jesse Lingard received the ball in space on the edge of the box in the 35th but shot wide.

Ivan Perisic leveled for Croatia with a volley from close range in the 68th minute. Perisic leaped to meet Sime Vrsaljko’s curling cross with his left foot and hit it past Jordan Pickford. Perisic nearly followed up with a second goal moments after his first but he hit the post for the second game in succession. The Inter Milan winger was afforded space after a failed John Stones clearance but only managed to fire his shot against the post. Marcelo Brozovic then blasted over as England’s defense looked all at sea.

Croatia has now come back from a goal down to win in each of its last three games — the last two went to penalty shootouts after extra time.

Southgate replaced Sterling with Marcus Rashford in the 74th minute in a bid to provide an attacking spark. But Croatia continued to press and England hearts were again sent fluttering when Mandzukic chested down a Brozovic pass from the right only to fire his shot from a tight angle straight at Pickford.

England will have been relieved to hear referee Cuneyt Cakir blow the full-time whistle and the short break seemed to work in their favor as they took the initiative early in extra time. However the Three Lions were left frustrated as Juventus forward Vrsaljko brilliantly cleared off the line after after Stones met a Trippier corner with a bullet header.

Vrsaljko Mandzukic’s goal in the 109th minute put Croatia ahead in second half of extra time. Mandzukic latched onto Perisic’s header and rifled it past England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, sparking wild celebrations in the corner. It was set up by a quick-thinking Ivan Perisic, who saw opportunity in a half-clearance and won it for Mandzukic.

With England barely clinging on in the latter stages, Jordan Pickford saved a shot from Mario Mandzukic. Shortly after, Perisic scooped the ball over the bar with Pickford out of position.

Croatia into their first ever FIFA World Cup Final.

England’s 52-year wait for a second World Cup continues. England won the title on home soil in 1966 in its only previous trip to the final.

Croatia are the first team to avoid defeat after trailing in three knockout matches at a single World Cup. As a result of their successive displays of resilience and determination, they become the 13th different nation to reach their first World Cup Final.

“It was a very difficult game, we all know what at stake, how important a semi-final is for a small country like Croatia. We started slowly but we’ve shown our character, just as we have in the previous two knockout rounds when we were one goal down in both matches. We didn’t used to be that resilient. Twenty years ago I was back home in Omis, my home town. I rooted for Croatia, wearing a Croatia jersey, and I could only dream of playing for my country and scoring one of the most important goals to send us to a final.” Man of the Match, Ivan Perisic, said at the post game press conference.

“In 1998 I was in France for the first three games as a supporter. Everyone in Croatia remembers that game when Thuram scored and we lost 2-1. This has been the topic of discussion for the past 20 years. I remember when we celebrated Suker’s goal but as soon as we sat back down it was level. Both teams have shown their qualities, we do not seek revenge, this football, this is sport, but what we have to do is focus on preparing to play our best game of the tournament in the Final.” Croatia coach, Zlatko Dalic  said at the post game press conference.

“What our players did today, the strength they’ve shown, the stamina, the energy levels. I wanted to substitute but no one wanted to be subbed, everybody kept saying ‘I’m ready, I can run on’. Some players played with minor injuries with which they would not have played some other games. Two players played with half a leg, but it didn’t show. Nobody wanted to give in when I was preparing the first eleven, nobody wanted to say I was not ready in extra time, no one wanted to be subbed and this shows character and what makes me proud. Nobody gave up. ” Croatia coach, Zlatko Dalic added.

“At the moment we all feel the pain of the defeat. Did we expect to be in this position? I don’t think realistically any of us did. But when you’ve got to this pint and you’ve played in the way we have and played as well as we have in the first half you want to take those opportunities in life. The dressing room is a very difficult place at the moment. But what I will say is I’m remarkably proud of a group of players who have really advanced. I think the reaction of the supporters to them, compared to two years ago, tells them that, first and foremost, that experiences with England can be positive, the country are very proud of them and the way that they’ve played and there will in time be a lot of positives to take.” England coach, Gareth Southgate, said at the post game press conference.

A total of 32 national football teams are participating in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, held in 11 cities across Russia between June 14 and July 15.

The teams were divided into  eight groups, with four in each, and the top two from their relevant groups proceeded to the next round, known as the playoffs or the knockout stage, to keep vying for the much-coveted FIFA World Cup Trophy.

Russia is holding its first time ever edition of the FIFA World Cup, which kicked off in Moscow with a spectacular opening show at the Luzhniki Stadium on the night of June 14.  The World Cup is being held at 12 arenas across 11 cities with the final set to be played at Luzhniki on July 15. The  11 host cities are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.

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Samuel Abasi

Samuel Abasi

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