Mandzukic sends irrepressible Croatia into first World Cup final

Mandzukic sends irrepressible Croatia into first World Cup final

Mandzukic sends irrepressible Croatia into first World Cup final

In keeping with his even-handed and calm style, Southgate said his team were neither complacent nor too pumped up for Wednesday's clash at the Luzhniki Stadium, England's first World Cup semi-final since 1990.

With an average age of 26, England is one of the youngest teams at the World Cup.

"It was a very hard game, we all know what was at stake, how important a semi-final is for a small country like Croatia", said man-of-the-match Perisic.

Trippier's free-kick was not only his maiden England goal but was his first goal of any kind since he scored for Tottenham against Watford on February 6, 2016 - 886 days ago.

In the other four games, Croatia's only variable to its 4-2-3-1 formation was whether to start captain Luka Modric in a deep midfield role and Andrej Kramaric more advanced, or to move up Modric and start Marcelo Brozovic.

Then, in the 109th minute, a moment of lapse defending from England's defenders allowed Mario Mandzukic to sweep the ball past Jordan Pickford for Croatia's winning goal.

Cape Town - Croatia beat England 2-1 in the Soccer World Cup semi-final - sending Twitter into a frenzy.

But Croatia found energy after the break when the game opened up, making England's missed first-half opportunities seem all-the-more significant.

He was everywhere in the second half as Croatia searched for the equalizer, whether it was serving balls into the box or scoring the first Croatia goal or hitting the ball on Mandzukic's second.

"I can't ask any more", England manager Gareth Southgate said of his team.

Click through the mini-gallery above to see pictures of Croatia's celebrations after they qualified for the World Cup final!

England's campaign had been characterised by fearlessness and an ability to keep hold of possession, in such stark contrast to so many disappointing previous tournaments. "The higher the level of opponent, if you press in a disorganized fashion, then you will get picked through and we have got to be conscious of that", he said.

It was a different game from then on, with Croatia suddenly playing with accuracy and goal as England lost their shape and composure, though Kane missed a chance to win it in stoppage time when he headed wide from a free kick.

'It's been great to get to this stage but we have fallen a little bit short and it hurts'. "It's just unbelievable to get back in the game in this way".

England initially regrouped well in extra time with Marcus Rashford introducing some pace and Croatia were grateful for Vrsaljko's goalline clearance of a John Stones header.

But the defeat to the smallest nation to reach a World Cup final since Uruguay in 1950 is a body blow that leaves the Three Lions reeling ahead of an unwanted third-placed play-off against Belgium on Saturday.

Related news