The Golden Generation of Croatia staged a coruscating comeback against the high-riding England to seal a 2-1 victory over the latter in their semi-final clash at Luzhniki Stadium, securing their final showdown against France.
A tense semifinal clash between two of Europe’s footballing..
The never give up attitude of the Croats saw them booking their place in the finals for the first time in history in a vehemently contested battle against England.
The Three Lions got into a dream start just 5 minutes into the game with an inch perfect free-kick from their dead ball specialist, Kieran Trippier. He curled the ball over the wall from 20 yards out into the top right leaving Danijel Subasic no opportunity whatsoever.
Croatia changed gears without further ado in search for an equalizer, but it was England who kept their momentum cropping up some threatening moves to trouble the Croatian backline.
Croatia slowly got themselves into the game manoeuvring some propitious moves which they could not convert owing to their jerry-built finishing coupled with England’s impressive defending.
England almost doubled their lead in the 30th minute with Jesse Lingard and Harry Kane combining to generate a moment of anxiety in the Croatian defense.
A delicate pass down the inside-left channel by Lingard found Kane open, but saw his feeble attempt being saved by Subasic which then again found Kane’s feet. But this time he only managed to hit the post from close range.
England came out with a 2-0 victory over Sweden..
Croatia were awarded with a free-kick just before the end of the 1st half and Dejan Lovren went down in the box under a tug on the shoulder by Harry Maguire in the process asking for a penalty; which was denied by the referee followed by the VAR.
Half Time – Croatia 0 – 1 England
Croatia flickered into life and came all guns blazing to make things even while England managed to hold the fort sitting deep and defending everything that came in their way.
But Ivan Perisic had other ideas as he headed home an acrobatic kick in the 68th minute to square things off. Sime Vrsaljko whipped a delicious curling cross from the left flank into the box and Perisic got in the end of it with a high foot sending the ball into the net beyond the reach of Jordan Pickford.
Croatia’s assertive approach looked a bit too much for the English defense and Pickford as it slowly started to unravel under pressure paving the way to a brace of blunders that almost gifted Croatia the lead.
The World Cup fairy-tale of the golden generation of Croatia..
At first, a low shot from Perisic was denied by the posts and then it broke into the feet of Ante Rebic who could only manage a fragile shot straight into the hands of Pickford. Then, Perisic had another window of opportunity when he found an open goal to shoot at, which he could only send over the posts.
Chances went draining on both ends of the pitch with neither failing to add the much needed final touch to find the back of the net, taking the verdict of the game into the extra time.
Full Time – Croatia 1 – 1 England
It was all-England in the 1st half of the extra time as they looked adventurous fancying their chance going forward. They were almost rewarded with a goal when Stones guided a header from 12 yards out towards top left corner catching Subasic off guard; but Vrsaljko came into their rescue clearing the ball from the line.
Pickford pulled off a brilliant save towards the end of the first half from point blank range to deny Mario Mandzukic, keeping England in the game.
Croatia discovered their all-important second goal just 4 minutes into the second half courtesy of sleepy defending from England backline. An unmarked Mario Mandzukic got in the end of a simple header by Perisic, blasted it into the bottom right pass Pickford and wheeled off in celebration; leaving the whole English camp stunned.
England gave everything in their arsenal to find the equalizer, but Croatia managed to hold the fort sealing their final ticket to finals for the first time in history.
Extra Time – Croatia 2 – 1 England
Man of the Match – Ivan Perisic (Croatia)
Croatia – Iven Perisic 68’, Mario Mandzukic 109’
England – Kieran Trippier 5’
Croatia – Mario Mandzukic 48’, Ante Rebic 96’
England – Kyle Walker 54’