By: Gavin Riley
Croatia has reached their first FIFA World Cup Final, coming from behind to defeat England 2-1 after extra time at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow – with Mario Mandzukic’s extra-time goal the decisive strike.
The game had started so well for the Three Lions. Less than five minutes were on the clock when Kieran Trippier curled a delicious free-kick past the helpless Danijel Subasic.
Croatia struck back after the break. After continually increasing the pressure on the Three Lions, Sime Vrsaljko’s pinpoint cross was met by Ivan Perisic, who snuck into a level from close range. Less than five minutes later, Perisic found himself in space in the English penalty area, but his effort struck the post, and the follow-up was gratefully held by Jordan Pickford.
Perisic’s effort off the woodwork was the closest either side came to taking the lead before the 90 minutes were up, meaning England faced a second period of extra time at Russia 2018 – with Croatia undertaking a third consecutive additional 30 minutes.
Vatreni did not need penalties this time though. Mandzukic ghosted in behind the English defense, who momentarily lost concentration, and the midfielder hammered home a historic strike to send his country into their maiden World Cup Final.
Despite a zealous fervor English fans held in the ‘It’s coming home’ chant, the Three Lions fell one win short of their goal of reaching the World Cup final, while the Croatian dream continues into Sunday’s final against France.
Croatia, with one of the smallest population in this tournament at roughly 4.2 million, is off to the World Cup final for the first time in team history. Before this, Croatia’s best finish was third place in France 1998, their first-ever World Cup appearance.