Croatia defeated England 2-1 after extra-time to book a place in the final.
It was heartbreak once again for England, the 1966 winners, who were in dreamland with Kieran Trippier’s early goal, but it was to be a sad ending, just like at Italia 1990 Mundial.
England have scored most of their goals through dead ball situations and they made another count through the deadly Trippier on five minutes.
Luka Modric brought down Dele Alli for the Tottenham defender, also known as the Berry Beckham, to curl in the resultant free-kick beautifully from 25 yards to give England an early lead.
Croatia’s first real opportunity to equalise came on the half hour when Ante Rebic curled John Stones’ poor clearance straight at goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
From that moment onward, coach Gareth Southgate’s team looked to frustrate their opponents with passing aimlessly around before locating their goalkeeper to launch it forward, win back possession and continue the cycle. This they managed to achieve for the remainder of the first half.
The second half continued as a dull contest, with the English players resorting to time-wasting through dives and fake injuries, while Croatia kept trying to find a way and they finally did through Ivan Perisic on 68 minutes. The Inter Milan winger bravely stuck out a boot towards Vrsaljko’s cross ahead of Kyle Walker who was waiting to clear with his head, sending the ball beyond Pickford for a deserved equaliser.
Croatia should have taken the lead through Perisic who took advantage of miscommunication in England’s defense, his shot hit the base of the post while Rebic’s rebound was straight at Pickford.
England brought on Marcus Rashford to finally attack again and had chances through Jesse Lingard and Jordan Henderson, both shooting wide. Croatia, however, continued to dominate but England almost won it in added time, Harry Kane’s header from another free-kick going wide. That was to be the final opportunity as both teams settled for additional thirty minutes of extra time, Croatia’s third and England’s second of the tournament.
Both countries created excellent chance each to take the lead in first-half extra time, Stones’ header was cleared off the line by Vrsaljko early on, while Pickford bravely closed down space before brilliantly saving Mario Mandzukic’s shot from Krammaric’s cross late in the half.
Croatia scored the heartbreaking winner on 111 minutes through striker, Mandzukic when England’s defense, again, went to sleep. A half-cleared cross was nodded back into the box and Mandzukic stole in between the sleeping defensive duo of Stones and Harry Maguire to place his shot beyond Pickford for a cruel but deserved lead.
England, who were tepid after taking the lead in the first half, were finally the urgent side but Croatia held on, much to the delight of their fans but anguish and heartbreak for the English contingent.
Croatia, who qualified for their first ever final appearance, will face off against France, World Cup winner in 1998 when Croatia made their first-ever appearance, at the Luzniki stadium on Sunday.