Croatia reaches World Cup for 1st time, beats England 2-1

Croatia reaches World Cup for 1st time, beats England 2-1

Croatia reaches World Cup for 1st time, beats England 2-1

Gareth Southgate's side took the lead through Kieran Trippier's stunning fifth minute free-kick but Ivan Perisic levelled matters in the 68th minute, before Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic popped up with the victor in extra time - ending England's World Cup dream and sending Croatia into their first ever World Cup final.

With such a youthful squad taking part in Russian Federation, there is clearly a hope that Wednesday's semi-final defeat won't be the last time that this group of players contest the latter stages of a major tournament.

Liverpool centre-back Dejan Lovren lasted just 31 minutes against Tottenham Hotspur during the Reds' 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Spurs last October.

They will take on favourites France at 1am Monday morning Australian eastern time, while Belgium play England at midnight on Saturday night in the third placed playoff.

"We got some control back in extra time and showed some more composure".

England captain Harry Kane was heartbroken after the loss but admitted that England had paid the price for being too passive in the second half after a bright opening 40 minutes. Harry Kane & Co. will deal with the same disappointment that felled Shearer and Platt, Gazza and Wazza, Beckham and Gerrard. We will see what happens, but success for Croatia the most important.

While going to 30 minutes of extra time in all three of their sudden death matches - not to mention emotional energy-sapping penalty shootouts in two - has proved beyond doubt Croatia's resilience, it has taken its toll.

About 10 minutes before Mandzukic scored, defender Sime Vrsaljko headed a shot on target off the goal line to keep the score tied. In the 109th minute, Perisic struck again.

Preview: Two nations who have been waiting years to put right the bitter memories of World Cup semi-final defeats will face each other on Wednesday in Moscow with the chance to finally go one step further.

Ivan Perisic's second-half goal may have done its bit to decrease the levels of euphoria, but there remained hope of a victory.

Croatia continued to probe and following a lack of concentration in defence, Mario Mandzukic pounced on a lose ball and hit a left-footed strike beyond Jordan Pickford's reach.

England had got off to a flying start when Trippier curled a superb free kick into the top corner.

One of Gareth Southgate's favourite phrases is to "be as good as you can be".

With his first worldwide goal, just over a year after his England debut, the 27-year-old Trippier joined David Beckham as the only English players since 1966 to score on free kicks at the World Cup.

England grew ragged and started to look emotionally drained at the end of such a long campaign.

It was their 12th goal of the tournament and ninth from a set-piece, but they should have added more from open play as they revelled in the space they were being given and looked completely in command.

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