Croatia claw their way to the final with win over England

Elated Croatian fans celebrate their team's progression to the final. Picture: Stock

Poor defending by England in the second period of extra time opened the door for Croatia to enter their biggest ever stage as they ran out 2-1 winners over the Three Lions.

The Croatians, who will contest the World Cup for the first time in their nation’s history, came from behind after England had scored as early as the fourth minute of the game.

The men in white had started full of composure all over the park; no panic at the back and spreading the game wide, making Croatia do plenty of running.

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They were also forcing Croatia’s main playmaker Luka Modric to take a more defensive role trying to break up English attacks.

And it was their talisman who brought down Deme Alli on the edge of the box, where Kieran Tripper did a Ronaldo as he sailed the ball into the top right corner, giving Danijel Subasic no chance (1-0).

There were a number of chances in the half and England ought to have added to their tally.

Maguire headed wide, Sterling looked for an offside Kane instead of trying his own luck, Lingard failed to finish off a Kane-Alli interpassing move while at the other end, Ante Rebic shot well for Croatia but Jordan Pickford grabbed it with glee.

Ivan Perisic also shot wide, while Ashley Young slid a dangerous ball behind just in time.

England has shaded the half, largely thanks to negating the dangerous Moderic.

It all changed in the second period and the momentum swung almost totally to Croatia.

The English strikers did get a few opportunities but Mario Mandzukic, Ante Rebic, Ivan Perisic and Ivan Rakitic were now in top gear, forcing plenty of errors from the English defenders.

Even the rock that is Jordan Pickford started looking shaky, twice coming out for the ball and missing it.

Perisic thundered a shot that was destined to break the back of the net in the 64th minute had it not been for Kyle Walker putting his body on the line and taking the pain from a crude form of temporary birth control.

But Perisic would not be denied and moments later an out of position Walker got on the wrong side of him and Perisic slid the ball past Pickford for 1-1.

Shots came and went but no change to the score line in the first period of extra time.

By now Modric, although visibly tiring, had been running the show.

A cross from the right saw John Stones and Harry Maguire fail to sense the danger and Mandzukic slipped behind them to grab the winner (2-1) and close up shop for the remaining few minutes.

England never stopped trying and will contest the third place play-off on Saturday.

But a glorious win for Croatia, who will meet France in the final on Sunday.

  AUTHOR
Dave Savides

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