Croatian striker reacted quickest to Ivan Perisic’s instinctive header to beat John Stones to the ball and fire home
Mario Mandzukic celebrates after putting Croatia in front for the first time with just 11 minutes remaining in Moscow
The Juventus striker would go on to have the last laugh as he fired Croatia into their first ever World Cup final against France
The Croatian players rush to congratulate the match-winner Mandzukic as they head to their first ever World Cup final
CROATIA 2-1 ENGLAND (aet) – One lapse. That is all is takes in this rarest of atmospheres. Kieran Trippier didn’t contest Ivan Perisic’s header, Mario Mandzukic ran off slow-reacting John Stones, and England were condemned to third place contention with Belgium.
It took Croatia 109 minutes of football to take the lead against England, but they edged it in the end. They were the better team in the second-half, they hit the post, Jordan Pickford made one magnificent save. But let’s get one thing straight. England were not lucky to be here.
One lapse. That is all it takes in this rarest of atmospheres. Kieran Trippier lost his header to Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic ran off John Stones, and England were stopped, cold, on their expected march to the final for the World Cup trophy.
Instead, it was a catastrophe when the England defence went to sleep for a split second, and Mandukic reacted faster to a Perisic header than John Stones, and whipped in a searing left-footer past Pickford to put Croatia in the grande finale, against France.
It took Croatia 109 minutes of football to take the lead against England, but they edged it in the end. They were the better team in the second-half, they hit the post, Jordan Pickford made one magnificent save.
But let’s get one thing straight. England were not lucky to be here. They were not fortunate beneficiaries of a soft draw, or undeserving contenders for the 2018 World Cup. They were, in many ways, the best team here. Not in football terms, or technical terms. No-one is claiming them the match for France, or even Croatia, the finalists. But as a team, a band of brothers, a group of players amounting to more than the sum of their parts, England were outstanding.
England’s players look dejected after the final whistle blows to confirm their World Cup exit at the semi-final stage
The England players gathered in the centre-circle after the game as they come to terms with the defeat by Croatia
Gareth Southgate saves a hug for England’s heroic No 1 Jordan Pickford after the end of the game on Wednesday night
Gareth Southgate consoles Harry Maguire after England crashed out of the World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium
The England boss puts his arm around England captain Harry Kane as they thank the fans for their support out in Russia
The Croatian players celebrate at the end of the game after reaching their first ever World Cup final against France
Croatia celebrate with their hordes of fans inside the Luzhniki Stadium as their place in the final was confirmed with victory
Ivan Perisic drifts in front of Kyle Walker and gets his foot ahead of the England defender’s head to divert a cross into the net
The Inter Milan winger celebrates after equalising for Croatia in the 68th minute of their World Cup semi-final clash
Kieran Trippier roars in celebration after giving England a fifth minute lead against Croatia with a stunning free-kick
Kieran Trippier swings his free-kick over the jumping Croatian wall and beyond the despairing dive of Danijel Subasic
Kieran Trippier is mobbed by his jubilant team-mates after giving England the early advantage against the Croatians
Defender Kyle Walker jumps up on top of his England team-mates as they pile on the goalscorer, Kieran Trippier
Croatia: Subasic, Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic (Pivaric 95), Rakitic, Brozovic, Rebic (Kramaric 101), Modric (Badelj 119), Perisic, Mandzukic (Corluka 116)
Subs not used: Livakovic, Kovacic, Jedvaj, Bradaric, Caleta-Car, Pjaca, Lovren, Kalinic
Goalscorers: Perisic 68, Mandzukic 109
Booked: Mandzukic, Rebic
England: Pickford, Walker (Vardy 112), Stones, Maguire, Trippier, Alli, Henderson (Dier 97), Lingard, Young (Rose 90), Sterling (Rashford 74), Kane
Subs not used: Butland, Welbeck, Cahill, Jones, Delph, Loftus-Cheek, Alexander-Arnold, Pope
Goalscorers: Trippier 5
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir
There is no shame here, no failure. England did as well as could possibly be expected given their youth, inexperience and the absence of a playmaker in the class of Luka Modric.
Gareth Southgate, the manager, has done an exceptional job and the national team should be his to mould for another four years at least. He deserves that, and so do they, his loyal lieutenants.
Anyone who thinks England just got lucky, doesn’t know football. This game was the proof of it. They battled Croatia to a standstill, both teams exhausted, all energy and emotion spent.
They could not have given more, either of them and that a single goal separated them is fitting. Better that than to lose of penalties and see that hoodoo return. That is another curse that has been lifted at this World Cup.
Credit Croatia, too. This was a spirited performance after two knockout games that have reached penalties. When England took the lead after five minutes, and dominated the opening 30, it would have been easy to be overwhelmed.
Instead, they found a way back into the game, through Modric and man of the match Perisic, outstanding technical talents that point the way forward for Southgate and his men. But they know that, having come so close. They know there is a missing link, and the next step is finding it. Easier said than done.
The scene was set at the Luzhniki Stadium ahead of kick-off as both sides stepped out for the national anthems
The two captains Luka Modric and Harry Kane exchange a handshake ahead of kick-off at the Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday
Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli falls down under the challenge from Luka Modric leading to the free-kick for the opening goal
Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic and Dejan Lovren leap high but cannot block the free-kick as it bends towards their goal
Danijel Subasic is left stranded as Kieran Trippier’s free-kick beats his dive and nestles into the top corner of the net
Captain Harry Kane and the goalscorer cannot contain their delight after taking an early lead in Moscow on Wednesday
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford punches the air in celebration after England’s early strike at the Luzhniki Stadium against Croatia
England forward Raheem Sterling looks to explode forward early in the game but is denied by Croatia’s Domagoj Vida
Harry Maguire leaps ahead of Croatia centre-back Domagoj Vida but cannot direct his header from a corner goalwards
Croatia were always going to be the strongest test England had faced in this competition to here, and so it proved. If England had the upper hand for the bulk of the first-half, the second – in its entirety – belonged to Croatia. This was the team England – the country, more than the team – feared.
Controlling the ball in midfield through Luka Modric, with Ivan Perisic quite brilliant coming in from the left. England looked ragged through that second 45 minutes, leggy, edgy, panicked.
In a seven minute spell, Croatia took them apart, physically and technically. Poor Kyle Walker was struck a devastating blow in the crotch from a shot by Perisic, collapsed, and when the ball did not go out of play, got up to clear the recycled cross. Then he fell again. It was a heroic moment. Whether it played a part in what happened next is hard to say.
Just three minutes later Sime Vrsaljko hit a superb deep cross from the right, and Perisic drifted off Kieran Tripper and attacked the ball. Walker went for a diving headed clearance but Perisic nipped in first and met it with a volleyed flick past Jordan Pickford.
A high boot? Possibly, but Walker was stooping, so it was a judgement call. Referee Cuneyt Cakir went with the scorer. To be fair we would have moaned like hell had he disallowed one of ours like that.
The pressure was now unrelenting. Perisic capitalised on the growing uncertainty in England’s back line and hit the far post with a shot, Ante Rebic putting a tame rebound into the arms of Pickford. This was as rattled as England had looked all tournament. Pickford came for a high ball, didn’t get it, and Perisic shot over, the goal unguarded.
And yet there were moments when England’s strengths surfaced once more. Substitute Marcus Rashford won a free-kick, which Trippier curled in only for Harry Kane to steer a free header wide. The glorious fifth minute seemed an age away as the game moved into extra-time.
Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic looks to get his foot on the ball early in the game as John Stones tries to put pressure on
England midfielder Jordan Henderson gets his foot on the ball as Croatia captain Luka Modric watches in earnest
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford leaps high and catches the ball in his gloves ahead of the efforts of Ivan Perisic
Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic leaps to get his head on the ball under pressure from John Stones and Jordan Henderson
Croatia’s defensive midfielder Marcelo Brozovic passes the ball along the ground as Jordan Henderson puts the pressure on
England captain Harry Kane clutches his chest after being brought down in the centre circle attempting to launch a counter
Kane then went on to miss a glaring one-on-one opportunity by hitting his effort too close to goalkeeper Danijel Subasic
The England skipper had been flagged offside before he then fired his rebound effort against the foot of the post
Luka Modric remonstrates with referee Cuneyt Cakir as another decision goes against Croatia in the first-half in Moscow
Ashley Young performs a last-ditch block as Croatian winger Ante Rebic looked to get on the end of a low cross
It is a very select group, those that have scored for England direct from free-kicks. Even more exclusive, the little club that have done it at a World Cup. It’s David Beckham, actually. Just him. One against Colombia, most recently against Ecuador in 2006. Still if he does ever decide to form an England World Cup Free-Kick Scorers Society at least he’ll have company at their annual ball. He’ll have Kieran Trippier after Wednesday night.
Just five minutes gone, first real attack of the game. What a start it was for Trippier and England. There can be little doubt now that we are watching the best deliverer of a dead ball this country has had since Beckham. We’ve already seen his first-time crosses, his vicious perfectly flighted corners, but he has never scored a free-kick for England. No time like the present then. No time like a World Cup semi-final.
It began when Dele Alli was fouled by Luka Modric just inside the penalty area D. England had been on red alert for Modric and what he could do, so it was ironic that Croatia were suffering with the pace and movement of England’s forward midfield instead. A trio of England players stood around the ball deliberating, but the suspicion always was that it would be Trippier’s responsibility at this range.
He did not disappoint. The whole Croatia wall jumped but somehow the Tottenham man got it up, over and down to leave Danijel Subasic grasping at thin air in Croatia’s goal. The ball passed over Dejan Lovren’s head en route. Not small, Lovren. It was a quite exquisite free-kick. Beckham would have been proud of it. So, for that matter, would Cristiano Ronaldo – or Roberto Carlos.
Jesse Lingard has the chance to double England’s advantage but he can only curl a tame effort wide of the Croatian goal
England defender Harry Maguire muscles opposite number Ante Rebic off the ball and brings it out from defence
Dejan Lovren makes his feelings known to the referee as he felt Croatia were denied a penalty on the stroke of half-time
England striker Harry Kane is sent tumbling into the advertising hoardings after being on the end of a strong challenge
Croatia winger Ivan Perisic grapples with England defender Kyle Walker and tries to get the ball off him to re-start play
On the bench, Gareth Southgate pumped his fists and then returned to default concentration mode. Five minutes is desperately early to take the lead in a World Cup semi-final. Better than going behind after five, obviously. But it’s an age to defend that lead – and, as against Tunisia when this campaign began, England squandered several chances to take the pressure off.
In the 14th minute, a Trippier corner was met by Harry Maguire – when are they not? – and he steered his header low towards the far post. A touch from a lurker and England would have been two ahead but no-one was there. Maybe England are so used to scoring headers direct from these dead balls, they aren’t following in.
Then the chance that amazed and frustrated in equal measure. Frustrated because it was a genuinely good chance missed by England; amazed because it was Harry Kane who fluffed it. The pass from Jesse Lingard was perfect and suddenly Kane was clear. Free of Croatia’s defence only Subasic to beat.
He tried to slot it past him and the whole stadium expected to see the ball come to rest in the goal, but no. Subasic saved and Kane scrambled desperately to be first to the rebound, now at an acute angle. He tried to whip it in, but the ball hit the near post, came out, struck Subasic and spun up in the air across goal and out on the other side. The second chance was tough. But the first? In Kane’s world that was a sitter.
Raheem Sterling goes to ground inside the box as he tries to find a way through for England as Croatia defend in numbers
The referee calls for medical attention to be given to Kyle Walker after the ball struck him in the midriff blocking a shot on goal
Perisic’s acrobatic effort is too quick for Jordan Pickford and nestles into the back of the net to bring Croatia level
The Croatian players celebrate in front of their jubilant supporters after equalising against England in the 68th minute
Kyle Walker, John Stones and Jordan Pickford can only watch as Ivan Perisic’s effort hits the foot of the post for Croatia
Mario Mandzukic chests the ball down and thumps an effort at goal but it is straight at England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford
Gareth Southgate marshalls his troops as England’s World Cup semi-final against Croatia heads in to extra-time
Ivan Perisic checks on his Croatian team-mate Ivan Strinic, who has to be taken off due to an injury in extra-time
John Stones rises highest to direct a free header towards goal but sees his effort agonisingly cleared off the line by Croatia
Six minutes later, England could have scored again. Alli, enjoying his best game of the tournament, the provider, finding Lingard whose attempt to pass it into the net from the edge of the area was ambitious and travelled the wrong side of the post.
But this was still a huge performance from England, with Lovren struggling to contain Raheem Sterling in particular. It was clearly the plan to use his pace in running races against Croatia’s back line, and it worked. With Alli and Lingard skipping around in his orbit, England looked dangerous.
Of course, when Modric got on the ball so did Croatia, and the 10 minutes before half-time he controlled. It didn’t add up to much, though – an Ante Rebic shot comfortably saved by Jordan Pickford, and a few important interceptions by Ashley Young and John Stones. In the 19th minute, a crossfield pass by Modric picked out Ivan Perisic, whose low shot went just wide, but England’s chances were better, and clearer. Not that this stopped the jangling nerves, mind you. But it is hard to imagine what would, at this late stage.
Croatia right-back Sime Vrsaljko is back on the line to head Stones’ effort away from goal and keep the semi-final level
Jordan Pickford rushes off his line to deny Mario Mandzukic as Croatia search for a winner in the first-half of extra-time
Ivan Rakitic and Dele Alli clash in the closing stages of the game as tempers boil over with a World Cup final place at stake
EDITED FROM: dailymail.co.uk