Croatia advance to its first ever World Cup final after dramatic 2-1 victory over England
Another Croatia game going to the distance, but this time it finished without having to go to penalties as Croatia were able to find the winner and hold on to that lead in extra time. The game started off with an early goal from the English. A mistake in Croatia’s mistake lead to Luka Modrić fouling Dele Alli just outside the box, resulting in Kieran Trippier scoring a fantastic free kick to give England the 1-0 in the 5th minute. England captain Harry Kane had a chance to double England’s lead in the 30th minute but was denied by Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subašić; Raheem Sterling was wide open during Kane’s shot, had Kane had been unselfish he could have passed it to Sterling for an easy tap in which would have given England a 2-0 lead after 30 minutes. England did not look like they wanted to increase their lead after scoring early, but for Croatia it looked like the early goal was a shock to them. It looked like the early goal affected Croatia’s game plan and the players, but they responded very well in the second half. In the second half Croatia took control of the game and starting to be the more aggressive and willing team. The clear advantage the Croats had coming into the game was their dynamic midfield duo in Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić but a surprise to many both of them did not have the best of games. Modrić was covered really well by England’s defense, which as result affected Rakitić’s game as he had to play much deeper in the midfield than he wanted to. But the third Croatian midfielder Marcelo Brozović had a fantastic game against England and was the best midfielder in the game out of the three. Croatia equalized in the 68th minute off a Šime Vrsaljko cross from the right hand side which found Ivan Perišić who was able to put it past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who has had a fantastic World Cup for England. Croatia was playing better and better throughout the second half but that goal gave Croatia all the momentum. Perišić almost added a second goal in the 72nd minute as his left footed strike hits the right post, deny Croatia the chance to take the 2-1 lead. This is the second straight game that Perišić has hit post when the game was tied; first against Russia in the quarterfinals now against England in the semifinals. With the game tied at 1-1 after 90 minutes, the game headed towards extra time. In the 99th minute England almost scored off another set piece as header from John Stones was cleared off the goal line by Vrsaljko. In the 105th minute Jordan Pickford yet again made a fantastic save at the World Cup as he denied Mario Mandžukić’s almost guarantee goal, Pickford just got a touch to it with his knee. Croatia would find the winning goal in the 109th minute as Mario Mandžukić slots it by Pickford with a left footed shot to give Croatia the 2-1 lead. This goal would become the goal that sent Croatia to its first ever FIFA World Cup final. Even with Modrić and Rakitić not playing up to their standards, this was Croatia’s most complete performance since their 3-0 win over Argentina in the group stage. Croatia was the better team throughout the match and fully deserve to go through to the finals; Croatia had controlled more possession of the ball and had more shot attempts at goal than England. Croatia had 8 shots at goal while England only had 1 shot at goal throughout the whole 120 minutes. England becomes the first team to lose a World Cup semifinals game after leading at halftime. England will now face Belgium again but this time in the match for third place in Saint Petersburg on July 14th at 10AM ET. Croatia will face France in the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals in Moscow on July 15th at 11AM ET.
Dino Pavleka: @dino_ATL
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